Taking control: Hijacking of Rab GTPases by intracellular bacterial pathogens

Stefania Spano, Jorge E. Galán

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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Intracellular bacterial pathogens survive and replicate within specialized eukaryotic cell organelles. To establish their intracellular niches these pathogens have adopted sophisticated strategies to control intracellular membrane trafficking. Since Rab-family GTPases are critical regulators of endocytic and secretory membrane trafficking events, many intracellular pathogens have evolved specific mechanisms to modulate or hijack Rab GTPases dynamics and trafficking functions. One such strategy is the delivery of bacterial effectors through specialized machines to specifically target Rab GTPases. Some of these effectors functionally mimic host proteins that regulate the Rab GTP cycle, while others regulate Rabs proteins through their post-translation modifications or proteolysis. In this review, we examine how the localization and function of Rab-family GTPases are altered during infection with three well-studied intracellular bacterial pathogens, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella enterica and Legionella pneumophila. We also discuss recent findings about specific mechanisms by which these intracellular pathogens target this protein family.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-191
Number of pages10
JournalSmall GTPases
Issue number1-2
Early online date5 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Work in the Spanò laboratory is supported by the Wellcome Trust (grant no. 109680/Z/15/Z), the Royal Society (grant no. RG150386), and the BBSRC (grant no. BB/N017854/1). Work in the Galán laboratory is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (grants AI055472 and AI079022 to J.E.G.).


  • Intracellular membrane trafficking
  • intracellular pathogens
  • Legionella pneumophila
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Rab GTPases
  • Salmonella enterica


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