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Keywords:

  • Arf;
  • GEF;
  • GTP;
  • nucleotide exchange;
  • Sec7

The ADP ribosylation factors (Arfs) are a family of small, ubiquitously expressed and evolutionarily conserved guanosine triphosphatases that are key regulators of vesicular transport in eukaryotic cells (D’Souza-Schorey C, Chavrier P. ARF proteins: roles in membrane traffic and beyond. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 2006;7:347–358). Although Arfs are best known for their role in the nucleation of coat protein assembly at a variety of intracellular locations, it is increasingly apparent that they are also integral components in a number of important signaling pathways that are regulated by extracellular cues. The activation of Arfs is catalyzed by a family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs), referred to as the Sec7 family, based on homology of their catalytic domains to the yeast Arf GEF, sec7p. While there are only six mammalian Arfs, the human genome encodes 15 Sec7 family members, which can be divided into five classes based on related domain organization. Some of this diversity arises from the tissue-specific expression of certain isoforms, but all mammalian cells appear to express at least six Arf GEFs, suggesting that Arf activation is under extensive regulatory control. Here we review recent progress in our understanding of the structure, localization and biology of the different classes of Arf GEFs.