The time course of signaling by peptide hormones, neural peptides, and other neuromodulators depends on their storage inside dense core vesicles (DCVs). Adaptor protein 3 (AP-3) assembles the membrane proteins that confer regulated release of DCVs and is thought to promote their trafficking from endosomes directly to maturing DCVs. We now find that regulated monoamine release from DCVs requires sorting nexin 5 (SNX5). Loss of SNX5 disrupts trafficking of the vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT) to DCVs. The mechanism involves a role for SNX5 in retrograde transport of VMAT from endosomes to the TGN. However, this role for SNX5 conflicts with the proposed function of AP-3 in trafficking from endosomes directly to DCVs. We now identify a transient role for AP-3 at the TGN, where it associates with DCV cargo. Thus, retrograde transport from endosomes by SNX5 enables DCV assembly at the TGN by AP-3, resolving the apparent antagonism. A novel role for AP-3 at the TGN has implications for other organelles that also depend on this adaptor.

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