Mss4 Does Not Function As An Exchange Factor For Rab In Endoplasmic Reticulum To Golgi Transport.
Mss4 and its yeast homologue, Dss4, have been proposed to function as guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) for a subset of Rab proteins in the secretory pathway. We have previously shown that Rab1A mutants defective in GTP-binding potently inhibit endoplasmic reticulum to Golgi transport, presumably by sequestering an unknown GEF regulating its function. We now demonstrate that these mutants stably associate with Mss4 both in vivo and in vitro and that Mss4 effectively neutralizes the inhibitory activity of the Rab1A mutants. An equivalent Rab3A mutant (Rab3A[N135I]), a Rab protein specifically involved in regulated secretion at the cell surface, associates with Mss4 as efficiently as the Rab1A[N124I] mutant. Although Rab3A[N135I] prevents the ability of Mss4 to neutralize the inhibitory effects of Rab1A mutants on transport, it has no effect on Rab1 function or endoplasmic reticulum to Golgi transport. Furthermore, quantitative immunodepletion of Mss4 fails to inhibit transport in vitro. We conclude that Mss4 and its yeast homologue, Dss4, are not GEFs mediating activation of Rab, but rather, they interact with the transient guanine nucleotide-free state, defining a new class of Ras-superfamily GTPase effectors that function as guanine nucleotide-free chaperones (GFCs).