The retromer complex is a conserved endosomal protein sorting complex that sorts membrane proteins into nascent endosomal tubules. The recognition of membrane proteins is mediated by the cargo-selective retromer complex, a stable trimer of the Vps35 (vacuolar protein sorting 35), Vps29 and Vps26 proteins. We have recently reported that the cargo-selective retromer complex associates with the WASH (Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome homologue) complex, a multimeric protein complex that regulates tubule dynamics at endosomes. In the present study, we show that the retromer–WASH complex interaction occurs through the long unstructured ‘tail’ domain of the WASH complex–Fam21 protein binding to Vps35, an interaction that is necessary and sufficient to target the WASH complex to endosomes. The Fam21-tail also binds to FKBP15 (FK506-binding protein 15), a protein associated with ulcerative colitis, to mediate the membrane association of FKBP15. Elevated Fam21-tail expression inhibits the association of the WASH complex with retromer, resulting in increased cytoplasmic WASH complex. Additionally, overexpression of the Fam21-tail results in cell-spreading defects, implicating the activity of the WASH complex in regulating the mobilization of membrane into the endosome-to-cell surface pathway.

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