Glioblastoma is the most common and deadly malignant brain cancer. We now demonstrate that loss of function of the endosomal GTPase Rab35 in human brain tumor initiating cells (BTICs) increases glioblastoma growth and decreases animal survival following BTIC implantation in mouse brains. Mechanistically, we identify that the GTPase Arf5 interacts with the guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for Rab35, DENND1/connecdenn, and allosterically enhances its GEF activity toward Rab35. Knockdown of either Rab35 or Arf5 increases cell migration, invasiveness, and self-renewal in culture and enhances the growth and invasiveness of BTIC-initiated brain tumors in mice. RNAseq of the tumors reveals up-regulation of the tumor-promoting transcription factor SPOCD1, and disruption of the Arf5/Rab35 axis in glioblastoma cells leads to strong activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor, with resulting enhancement of SPOCD1 levels. These discoveries reveal an unexpected cascade between an Arf and a Rab and indicate a role for the cascade, and thus endosomal trafficking, in brain tumors.

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