The role of the small GTPase Rab31 in cancer

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Members of the small GTPase family Rab are emerging as potentially important factors in cancer development and progression. A good number of Rabs have been implicated or associated with various human cancers, and much recent excitement has been associated with the roles of the Rab11 subfamily member Rab25 and its effector, the Rab coupling protein (RCP), in tumourigenesis and metastasis. In this review, we focus on a Rab5 subfamily member, Rab31, and its implicated role in cancer. Well recognized as a breast cancer marker with good prognostic value, recent findings have provided some insights as to the mechanism underlying Rab31's influence on oncogenesis. Levels of Oestrogen Receptor α (ERα)- responsive Rab31 could be elevated through stabilization of its transcript by the RNA binding protein HuR, or though activation by the oncoprotein mucin1-C (MUC1-C), which forms a transcriptional complex with ERα. Elevated Rab31 stabilizes MUC1-C levels in an auto-inductive loop that could lead to aberrant signalling and gene expression associated with cancer progression. Rab31 and its guanine nucleotide exchange factor GAPex-5 have, however, also been shown to enhance early endosome-late endosome transport and degradation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The multifaceted action and influences of Rab31 in cancer is discussed in the light of its new interacting partners and pathways.

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