Molecular and Cellular Biology vol:15 issue:2 pages:918-924
One of the major activities of developing neurons is the transport of new membrane to the growing axon. Candidates for playing a key role in the regulation of this intense traffic are the small GTP-binding proteins of the rab family. We have used hippocampal neurons in culture and analyzed membrane traffic activity after suppressing the expression of the small GTP-binding protein rab8. Inhibition of protein expression was accomplished by using sequence-specific antisense oligonucleotides. While rab8 depletion resulted in the blockage of morphological maturation in 95% of the neurons, suppression of expression of another rab protein, rab3a, had no effect, and all neurons developed normal axons and dendrites. The impairment of neuronal maturation by rab8 antisense treatment was due to inhibition of membrane traffic. Thus, by using video-enhanced differential interference contrast microscopy, we observed in the rab8-depleted cells a dramatic reduction in the number of vesicles undergoing anterograde transport. Moreover, by incubating antisense-treated neurons with Bodipy-labeled ceramide, a fluorescent marker for newly formed exocytic vesicles, we observed fluorescence labeling restricted to the Golgi apparatus, whereas in control cells labeling was found also in the neurites. These results show the role of the small GTPase rab8 in membrane traffic during neuronal process outgrowth.