Visualization of Rab5 activity in living cells by FRET microscopy and influence of plasma-membrane-targeted Rab5 on clathrin-dependent endocytosis

Emilia Galperin, Alexander Sorkin

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72 Scopus citations


Rab5 is a small GTPase that controls endocytosis and early endosome dynamics. To visualize active, GTP-loaded Rab5 in living cells, we developed molecular sensors consisting of the Rab5-binding fragments of Rabaptin5 or EEA.1 fused to yellow fluorescent protein (YFP). Interaction of these sensors with GTP-bound Rab5 fused to cyan fluorescent protein (CFP) resulted in fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between CFP and YFP. Activated Rab5 was detected by FRET microscopy in endosomal compartments and often concentrated in microdomains in the endosomal membrane. Although the plasma membrane-localized activity of Rab5 was not detected by light microscopy, overexpression of a GDP-bound mutant of CFP-Rab5(S34N) inhibited internalization of the epidermal growth factor receptor by retaining receptors in clathrin-coated pits. To test whether the Rab5(S34N) mutant affects endocytosis directly at the plasma membrane, CFP-Rab5 was fused to the plasma membrane targeting sequence of K-Ras containing a CAAX motif. The resulting chimeric CFP-Rab5-CAAX was located mainly in the plasma membrane and was capable of binding GTP as judged by FRET microscopy with the Rabaptin5-based sensor. Interestingly, EEA.1 sensor did not follow activated Rab5-CAAX to the plasma membrane, suggesting that the interaction of EEA.1 with Rab5 plays a secondary role in EEA.1 targeting. Overexpression of CFP-Rab5(S34N)-CAAX prevented endocytosis of receptors by retaining them in coated pits. These data suggest that the dominant-negative effect of the Rab5(S34N) mutant on the late stages of endocytosis can be mediated through the inhibition of cytosol-associated or plasma-membrane-associated rather than endosome-associated regulators of Rab proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4799-4810
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


  • EGF
  • Endocytosis
  • Epidermal growth factor
  • Rab5

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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