Rab GTPases: Key players in melanosome biogenesis, transport, and transfer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Melanosomes are specialized intracellular organelles that produce and store melanin pigments in melanocytes, which are present in several mammalian tissues and organs, including the skin, hair, and eyes. Melanosomes form and mature stepwise (stages I–IV) in melanocytes and then are transported toward the plasma membrane along the cytoskeleton. They are subsequently transferred to neighboring keratinocytes by a largely unknown mechanism, and incorporated melanosomes are transported to the perinuclear region of the keratinocytes where they form melanin caps. Melanocytes also extend several dendrites that facilitate the efficient transfer of the melanosomes to the keratinocytes. Since the melanosome biogenesis, transport, and transfer steps require multiple membrane trafficking processes, Rab GTPases that are conserved key regulators of membrane traffic in all eukaryotes are crucial for skin and hair pigmentation. Dysfunctions of two Rab isoforms, Rab27A and Rab38, are known to cause a hypopigmentation phenotype in human type 2 Griscelli syndrome patients and in chocolate mice (related to Hermansky–Pudlak syndrome), respectively. In this review article, I review the literature on the functions of each Rab isoform and its upstream and downstream regulators in mammalian melanocytes and keratinocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-235
Number of pages14
JournalPigment Cell and Melanoma Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar


  • Griscelli syndrome
  • Hermansky–Pudlak syndrome
  • keratinocyte
  • lysosome-related organelle
  • melanocyte
  • melanosome
  • membrane traffic
  • motor
  • Rab effector
  • Rab GTPase


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