Vesicle-mediated protein sorting plays an important role in segregation of intracellular molecules into distinct organelles. Extensive genetic studies using yeast have identified more than 40 vacuolar protein sorting (VPS) genes involved in vesicle transport to vacuoles. However, their mammalian counterparts are not fully elucidated. In this study, we identified two human homologues of yeast Class C VPS genes, human VPS11 (hVPS11) and human VPS18 (hVPS18). We also characterized the subcellular localization and interactions of the protein products not only from these genes but also from the other mammalian Class C VPS homologue genes, hVPS16 and rVPS33a. The protein products of hVPS11 (hVps11) and hVPS18 (hVps18) were ubiquitously expressed in peripheral tissues, suggesting that they have a fundamental role in cellular function. Indirect immunofluorescence microscopy revealed that the mammalian Class C Vps proteins are predominantly associated with late endosomes/lysosomes. Immunoprecipitation and gel filtration studies showed that the mammalian Class C Vps proteins constitute a large hetero-oligomeric complex that interacts with syntaxin-7. These results indicate that like their yeast counterparts, mammalian Class C Vps proteins mediate vesicle trafficking steps in the endosome/lysosome pathway.
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