The small GTPase Rab11 dynamically changes its location to regulate various cellular processes such as endocytic recycling, secretion, and cytokinesis. However, our knowledge of its upstream regulators is still limited. Here, we identify the RAB-11-interacting protein-1 (REI-1) as a unique family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) for RAB-11 in Caenorhabditis elegans. Although REI-1 and its human homolog SH3-binding protein 5 do not contain any known Rab-GEF domains, they exhibited strong GEF activity toward Rab11 in vitro. In C. elegans, REI-1 is expressed in the germline and co-localizes with RAB-11 on the late-Golgi membranes. The loss of REI-1 specifically impaired the targeting of RAB-11 to the late-Golgi compartment and the recycling endosomes in embryos and further reduced the RAB-11 distribution to the cleavage furrow, which resulted in cytokinesis delay. These results suggest that REI-1 is a GEF specifically regulating the RAB-11 localization and functions in early embryos. Rab11 is a key regulator of post-Golgi membrane trafficking, but regulatory mechanisms affecting its activity are not well understood. Sakaguchi et al. identify C. elegans REI-1 and its mammalian homolog SH3BP5 as Rab11 guanine nucleotide exchange factors. In C. elegans, REI-1 is specifically required for RAB-11 regulation during embryonic cytokinesis.
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