The Rab family small GTPases are key players in the membrane traffic that underlies various cellular phenomena. Neurite outgrowth, which is a prerequisite for neuronal network formation, also requires membrane traffic from the cell body to the tips of neurites. Although several Rabs have been shown to promote neurite outgrowth, very little is known about Rab involvement in the negative regulation of neurite outgrowth. Here we used nerve growth factor-stimulated PC12 cells to perform siRNA-based comprehensive knockdown screenings for Rabs that negatively regulate neurite outgrowth and succeeded in identifying Rab20 as a novel negative regulator of neurite outgrowth. Our findings showed that knockdown of endogenous Rab20 in PC12 cells promoted neurite outgrowth, whereas overexpression of active Rab20 inhibited it. We also found that the presence of Gly-64 and Cys-70, both of which are conserved only in the switch II region, a putative effector binding domain, of Rab20 is required for the inhibitory effect of Rab20 on neurite outgrowth. These findings indicated that active Rab20 suppresses neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells, possibly through interaction with an unidentified effector molecule that specifically recognizes certain amino acids in the switch II region of Rab20.
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