Various membrane trafficking pathways transport molecules through the endosomal system of eukaryotic cells, where trafficking decisions control the localisation and activity of a diverse repertoire of membrane protein cargoes. The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used to discover and define many mechanisms that regulate conserved features of endosomal trafficking. Internalised surface membrane proteins first localise to endosomes before sorting to other compartments. Ubiquitination of endosomal membrane proteins is a signal for their degradation. Ubiquitinated cargoes are recognised by the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) apparatus, which mediate sorting through the multivesicular body pathway to the lysosome for degradation. Proteins that are not destined for degradation can be recycled to other intracellular compartments, such as the Golgi and the plasma membrane. In this review, we discuss recent developments elucidating the mechanisms that drive membrane protein degradation and recycling pathways in yeast.
Sorting internalized proteins and lipids back to the cell surface controls the supply of molecules throughout the cell and regulates integral membrane protein activity at the surface. One central process in mammalian cells is the transit of cargo from endosomes back to the plasma membrane (PM) directly, along a route that bypasses retrograde movement to the Golgi. Despite recognition of this pathway for decades we are only beginning to understand the machinery controlling this overall process. The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae , a stalwart genetic system, has been routinely used to identify fundamental proteins and their modes of action in conserved trafficking pathways. However, the study of cell surface recycling from endosomes in yeast is hampered by difficulties that obscure visualization of the pathway. Here we briefly discuss how recycling is likely a more prevalent process in yeast than is widely appreciated and how tools might be built to better study the pathway.
Regulation and specificity of membrane trafficking are required to maintain organelle integrity while performing essential cellular transport. Membrane fusion events in all eukaryotic cells are facilitated by the formation of specific SNARE (soluble N -ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion proteinattachment protein receptor) complexes between proteins on opposing lipid bilayers. Although regulation of SNARE complex assembly is not well understood, it is clear that two conserved protein families, the Sx (syntaxin) and the SM (Sec1p/Munc18) proteins, are central to this process. Sxs are a subfamily of SNARE proteins; in addition to the coiled-coil SNARE motif, Sxs possess an N-terminal, autonomously folded, triple-helical (Habc) domain. For some Sxs, it has been demonstrated that this Habc domain exerts an autoinhibitory effect on SNARE complex assembly by making intramolecular contacts with the SNARE motif. SM proteins regulate membrane fusion through interactions with their cognate Sxs. One hypothesis for SM protein function is that they facilitate a switch of the Sx from a closed to an open conformation, thus lifting the inhibitory action of the Habc domain and freeing the SNARE motif to participate in SNARE complexes. However, whether these regulatory mechanisms are conserved throughout the Sx/SM protein families remains contentious as it is not clear whether the closed conformation represents a universal feature of Sxs.