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1.  FilGAP, a Rho/Rho-associated protein kinase–regulated GTPase-activating protein for Rac, controls tumor cell migration 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(24):4739-4750.
In three-dimensional matrices, tumor cells can move with either an elongated/mesenchymal or a round/amoeboid morphology. This study identifies FilGAP, a Rac GTPase-activating protein (GAP), as a mediator of Rho/Rho-associated protein kinase–dependent amoeboid movement of carcinoma cells. FilGAP may contribute to tumor invasion and metastasis by controlling the amoeboid mode of movement.
Tumor cells exhibit two interconvertible modes of cell motility referred to as mesenchymal and amoeboid migration. Mesenchymal mode is characterized by elongated morphology that requires high GTPase Rac activation, whereas amoeboid mode is dependent on actomyosin contractility induced by Rho/Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) signaling. While elongated morphology is driven by Rac-induced protrusion at the leading edge, how Rho/ROCK signaling controls amoeboid movement is not well understood. We identified FilGAP, a Rac GTPase-activating protein (GAP), as a mediator of Rho/ROCK-dependent amoeboid movement of carcinoma cells. We show that depletion of endogenous FilGAP in carcinoma cells induced highly elongated mesenchymal morphology. Conversely, forced expression of FilGAP induced a round/amoeboid morphology that requires Rho/ROCK-dependent phosphorylation of FilGAP. Moreover, depletion of FilGAP impaired breast cancer cell invasion through extracellular matrices and reduced tumor cell extravasation in vivo. Thus phosphorylation of FilGAP by ROCK appears to promote amoeboid morphology of carcinoma cells, and FilGAP contributes to tumor invasion.
PMCID: PMC3521682  PMID: 23097497
2.  Shear stress–induced endothelial cell polarization is mediated by Rho and Rac but not Cdc42 or PI 3-kinases 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;161(2):429-439.
Shear stress induces endothelial polarization and migration in the direction of flow accompanied by extensive remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton. The GTPases RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 are known to regulate cell shape changes through effects on the cytoskeleton and cell adhesion. We show here that all three GTPases become rapidly activated by shear stress, and that each is important for different aspects of the endothelial response. RhoA was activated within 5 min after stimulation with shear stress and led to cell rounding via Rho-kinase. Subsequently, the cells respread and elongated within the direction of shear stress as RhoA activity returned to baseline and Rac1 and Cdc42 reached peak activation. Cell elongation required Rac1 and Cdc42 but not phosphatidylinositide 3-kinases. Cdc42 and PI3Ks were not required to establish shear stress–induced polarity although they contributed to optimal migration speed. Instead, Rho and Rac1 regulated directionality of cell movement. Inhibition of Rho or Rho-kinase did not affect the cell speed but significantly increased cell displacement. Our results show that endothelial cells reorient in response to shear stress by a two-step process involving Rho-induced depolarization, followed by Rho/Rac-mediated polarization and migration in the direction of flow.
PMCID: PMC2172912  PMID: 12719476
Rho GTPases; actin cytoskeleton; Rho-kinase; migration; polarity
3.  Rac and Rho GTPases in cancer cell motility control 
Rho GTPases represent a family of small GTP-binding proteins involved in cell cytoskeleton organization, migration, transcription, and proliferation. A common theme of these processes is a dynamic reorganization of actin cytoskeleton which has now emerged as a major switch control mainly carried out by Rho and Rac GTPase subfamilies, playing an acknowledged role in adaptation of cell motility to the microenvironment. Cells exhibit three distinct modes of migration when invading the 3 D environment. Collective motility leads to movement of cohorts of cells which maintain the adherens junctions and move by photolytic degradation of matrix barriers. Single cell mesenchymal-type movement is characterized by an elongated cellular shape and again requires extracellular proteolysis and integrin engagement. In addition it depends on Rac1-mediated cell polarization and lamellipodia formation. Conversely, in amoeboid movement cells have a rounded morphology, the movement is independent from proteases but requires high Rho GTPase to drive elevated levels of actomyosin contractility. These two modes of cell movement are interconvertible and several moving cells, including tumor cells, show an high degree of plasticity in motility styles shifting ad hoc between mesenchymal or amoeboid movements. This review will focus on the role of Rac and Rho small GTPases in cell motility and in the complex relationship driving the reciprocal control between Rac and Rho granting for the opportunistic motile behaviour of aggressive cancer cells. In addition we analyse the role of these GTPases in cancer progression and metastatic dissemination.
PMCID: PMC2941746  PMID: 20822528
4.  Involvement of Rho Family GTPases in p19Arf- and p53-Mediated Proliferation of Primary Mouse Embryonic Fibroblasts 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(3):1426-1438.
The Rho family GTPases Rac1, RhoA, and Cdc42 function as molecular switches that transduce intracellular signals regulating gene expression and cell proliferation as well as cell migration. p19Arf and p53, on the other hand, are tumor suppressors that act both independently and sequentially to regulate cell proliferation. To investigate the functional interaction and cooperativeness of Rho GTPases with the p19Arf-p53 pathway, we examined the contribution of Rho GTPases to the gene transcription and cell proliferation unleashed by deletion of p19Arf or p53 in primary mouse embryo fibroblasts. We found that (i) p19Arf or p53 deficiency led to a significant increase in PI 3-kinase activity, which in turn upregulated RhoA and Rac1 activities; (ii) deletion of p19Arf or p53 led to an increase in cell growth rate that was in part dependent on RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 activities; (iii) p19Arf or p53 deficiency caused an enhancement of the growth-related transcription factor NF-κB and cyclin D1 activities that are partly dependent on RhoA or Cdc42 but not on Rac1; (iv) forced expression of the activating mutants of Rac1, RhoA, or Cdc42 caused a hyperproliferative phenotype of the p19Arf−/− and p53−/− cells and promoted transformation of both cells; (v) RhoA appeared to contribute to p53-regulated cell proliferation by modulating cell cycle machinery, while hyperactivation of RhoA further suppressed a p53-independent apoptotic signal; and (vi) multiple pathways regulated by RhoA, including that of Rho-kinase, were required for RhoA to fully promote the transformation of p53−/− cells. Taken together, these results provide strong evidence indicating that signals through the Rho family GTPases can both contribute to cell growth regulation by p19Arf and p53 and cooperate with p19Arf or p53 deficiency to promote primary cell transformation.
PMCID: PMC321455  PMID: 14729984
5.  Identification of a GTP-bound Rho specific scFv molecular sensor by phage display selection 
BMC Biotechnology  2008;8:34.
The Rho GTPases A, B and C proteins, members of the Rho family whose activity is regulated by GDP/GTP cycling, function in many cellular pathways controlling proliferation and have recently been implicated in tumorigenesis. Although overexpression of Rho GTPases has been correlated with tumorigenesis, only their GTP-bound forms are able to activate the signalling pathways implicated in tumorigenesis. Thus, the focus of much recent research has been to identify biological tools capable of quantifying the level of cellular GTP-bound Rho, or determining the subcellular location of activation. However useful, these tools used to study the mechanism of Rho activation still have limitations. The aim of the present work was to employ phage display to identify a conformationally-specific single chain fragment variable (scFv) that recognizes the active, GTP-bound, form of Rho GTPases and is able to discriminate it from the inactive, GDP-bound, Rho in endogenous settings.
After five rounds of phage selection using a constitutively activated mutant of RhoB (RhoBQ63L), three scFvs (A8, C1 and D11) were selected for subsequent analysis. Further biochemical characterization was pursued for the single clone, C1, exhibiting an scFv structure. C1 was selective for the GTP-bound form of RhoA, RhoB, as well as RhoC, and failed to recognize GTP-loaded Rac1 or Cdc42, two other members of the Rho family. To enhance its production, soluble C1 was expressed in fusion with the N-terminal domain of phage protein pIII (scFv C1-N1N2), it appeared specifically associated with GTP-loaded recombinant RhoA and RhoB via immunoprecipitation, and endogenous activated Rho in HeLa cells as determined by immunofluorescence.
We identified an antibody, C1-N1N2, specific for the GTP-bound form of RhoB from a phage library, and confirmed its specificity towards GTP-bound RhoA and RhoC, as well as RhoB. The success of C1-N1N2 in discriminating activated Rho in immunofluorescence studies implies that this new tool, in collaboration with currently used RhoA and B antibodies, has the potential to analyze Rho activation in cell function and tumor development.
PMCID: PMC2323369  PMID: 18377644
6.  Rho GTPase protein expression and activation in murine monocytes/macrophages is not modulated by model biomaterial surfaces in serum-containing in vitro cultures 
The Rho GTPase cellular signaling cascade was investigated in pro-monocyte and (monocyte-)macrophage cells by examining GTPase expression and activation in serum-containing cultures on model biomaterials. Abundance of Rho GDI and the Rho GTPase proteins RhoA, Cdc42 and Rac1 was determined in cells grown on tissue culture polystyrene, polystyrene, poly-l-lactide and Teflon® AF surfaces. Protein expression was compared based on cell maturity (pro-monocyte to monocyte to macrophage lineages) and by model surface chemistry: Rho proteins were present in the majority of macrophage cells tested on model surfaces suggesting that a pool of Rho proteins is readily available for signaling events in response to numerous activating cues, including biomaterials surface encounter. Rho GTPase activation profiles in these cell lines indicate active Cdc42 and Rho proteins in RAW 264.7, Rac1 and Rho in J774A.1, and Cdc42 and Rac1 in IC-21 cell lines, respectively. Collectively, these proteins are known to play critical roles in all actin-based cytoskeletal rearrangement necessary for cell adhesion, spreading and motility, and remain important to establishing cellular responses required for foreign body reactions in vivo. Differences in Rho GTPase protein expression levels based on cell sourcing (primary versus secondary-derived cell source), or as a function of surface chemistry were insignificant. Rho GTPase expression profiles varied between pro-monocytic non-adherent precursor cells and mature adherent monocyte/macrophage cells. The active GTP-bound forms of the Rho GTPase proteins were detected from monocyte-macrophage cell lines RAW 264.7 and J774A.1 on all polymer surfaces, suggesting that while these proteins are central to cell adhesive behavior, differences in surface chemistry are insufficient to differentially regulate GTPase activation in these cell types. Active Cdc42 was detected from cells cultured on the more-polar tissue culture polystyrene and poly-l-lactide surfaces after several days, but absent from those grown on apolar polystyrene and Teflon® AF, indicating some surface influence on this GTPase in serum-containing cultures.
PMCID: PMC1776857  PMID: 17235380
Macrophage; GTPase; Rho; Cdc; Rac; biomaterial; signaling cascade; foreign body reaction
7.  Human Endometrial Stromal Cell Rho GTPases Have Opposing Roles in Regulating Focal Adhesion Turnover and Embryo Invasion In Vitro1 
Biology of Reproduction  2010;83(1):75-82.
Implantation of the embryo into the uterine compartment is a multistep event involving attachment of the embryo to the endometrial epithelia, followed by invasion of the embryo through the endometrial stroma. RHOA, RAC1, and CDC42 are members of the Rho GTPase family of proteins, which control cell functions such as cell migration and cytoskeletal reorganization. Herein, using a heterologous in vitro coculture model, we show that implantation of mouse blastocysts into human endometrial stromal cells (hESCs) is regulated by Rho GTPase activity in hESCs. Whereas iRNA-mediated silencing of RAC1 expression in hESCs led to inhibition of embryo implantation, silencing of either RHOA or CDC42 in hESCs promoted embryo implantation in coculture assays. Analysis of downstream signaling pathways demonstrated that RAC1 silencing was associated with decreased focal adhesion disassembly and resulted in large focal adhesion complexes in hESCs. In contrast, RHOA or CDC42 silencing resulted in perturbed focal adhesion assembly, leading to a decrease in the number of focal adhesions observed. Furthermore, inhibition of Rho signaling using a Rho kinase inhibitor, Y27632, led to decreased activation of protein tyrosine kinase 2 (PTK2, also called focal adhesion kinase) and decreased focal adhesion assembly. Importantly, perturbation of focal adhesion turnover in hESCs, mediated by PTK2 silencing, resulted in inhibition of embryo implantation into hESC monolayers. These findings suggest that Rho GTPase-PTK2-dependent remodeling of the endometrial stromal cell compartment may be critical for successful embryo implantation.
The GTPases RHOA, RAC1, and CDC42 in human endometrial stromal cells have opposing roles in mediating focal adhesion turnover and embryo invasion in an in vitro implantation model.
PMCID: PMC2888964  PMID: 20357266
developmental biology; early development; embryo; endometrium; implantation; pregnancy; Rho GTPases
8.  Rho GTPases Control Polarity, Protrusion, and Adhesion during Cell Movement  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;144(6):1235-1244.
Cell movement is essential during embryogenesis to establish tissue patterns and to drive morphogenetic pathways and in the adult for tissue repair and to direct cells to sites of infection. Animal cells move by crawling and the driving force is derived primarily from the coordinated assembly and disassembly of actin filaments. The small GTPases, Rho, Rac, and Cdc42, regulate the organization of actin filaments and we have analyzed their contributions to the movement of primary embryo fibroblasts in an in vitro wound healing assay. Rac is essential for the protrusion of lamellipodia and for forward movement. Cdc42 is required to maintain cell polarity, which includes the localization of lamellipodial activity to the leading edge and the reorientation of the Golgi apparatus in the direction of movement. Rho is required to maintain cell adhesion during movement, but stress fibers and focal adhesions are not required. Finally, Ras regulates focal adhesion and stress fiber turnover and this is essential for cell movement. We conclude that the signal transduction pathways controlled by the four small GTPases, Rho, Rac, Cdc42, and Ras, cooperate to promote cell movement.
PMCID: PMC2150589  PMID: 10087266
Rho GTPases; Ras; polarity; focal adhesion; wound healing
9.  The interaction between caveolin-1 and Rho-GTPases promotes metastasis by controlling the expression of alpha5-integrin and the activation of Src, Ras and Erk 
Oncogene  2011;31(7):884-896.
Proteins containing a caveolin-binding domain (CBD), such as the Rho-GTPases, can interact with caveolin-1 (Cav1) through its caveolin scaffold domain. Rho-GTPases are important regulators of p130Cas, which is crucial for both normal cell migration and Src kinase-mediated metastasis of cancer cells. However, although Rho-GTPases (particularly RhoC) and Cav1 have been linked to cancer progression and metastasis, the underlying molecular mechanisms are largely unknown. To investigate the function of Cav1–Rho-GTPase interaction in metastasis, we disrupted Cav1–Rho-GTPase binding in melanoma and mammary epithelial tumor cells by overexpressing CBD, and examined the loss-of-function of RhoC in metastatic cancer cells. Cancer cells overexpressing CBD or lacking RhoC had reduced p130Cas phosphorylation and Rac1 activation, resulting in an inhibition of migration and invasion in vitro. The activity of Src and the activation of its downstream targets FAK, Pyk2, Ras and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)1/2 were also impaired. A reduction in α5-integrin expression, which is required for binding to fibronectin and thus cell migration and survival, was observed in CBD-expressing cells and cells lacking RhoC. As a result of these defects, CBD-expressing melanoma cells had a reduced ability to metastasize in recipient mice, and impaired extravasation and survival in secondary sites in chicken embryos. Our data indicate that interaction between Cav1 and Rho-GTPases (most likely RhoC but not RhoA) promotes metastasis by stimulating α5-integrin expression and regulating the Src-dependent activation of p130Cas/Rac1, FAK/Pyk2 and Ras/Erk1/2 signaling cascades.
PMCID: PMC3289793  PMID: 21765460
Rho-GTPase; caveolin-1; alpha5-integrin; Src; cancer; intravital microscopy
10.  Targeting Cdc42 with the small molecule drug AZA197 suppresses primary colon cancer growth and prolongs survival in a preclinical mouse xenograft model by downregulation of PAK1 activity 
Rho GTPases play important roles in cytoskeleton organization, cell cycle progression and are key regulators of tumor progression. Strategies to modulate increased Rho GTPase activities during cancer progression could have therapeutic potential.
We report here the characterization of a Cdc42-selective small-molecule inhibitor AZA197 for the treatment of colon cancer that was developed based on structural information known from previously developed compounds affecting Rho GTPase activation. We investigated the effects of AZA197 treatment on RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42 activities and associated molecular mechanisms in colon cancer cells in vitro. Therapeutic effects of AZA197 were examined in vivo using a xenograft mouse model of SW620 human colon cancer cells. After treatment, tumors were excised and processed for Ki-67 staining, TUNEL assays and Western blotting to evaluate proliferative and apoptotic effects induced by AZA197.
In SW620 and HT-29 human colon cancer cells, AZA197 demonstrated selectivity for Cdc42 without inhibition of Rac1 or RhoA GTPases from the same family. AZA197 suppressed colon cancer cell proliferation, cell migration and invasion and increased apoptosis associated with down-regulation of the PAK1 and ERK signaling pathways in vitro. Furthermore, systemic AZA197 treatment reduced tumor growth in vivo and significantly increased mouse survival in SW620 tumor xenografts. Ki-67 staining and tissue TUNEL assays showed that both inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis associated with reduced PAK/ERK activation contributed to the AZA197-induced therapeutic effects in vivo.
These data indicate the therapeutic potential of the small-molecule inhibitor AZA197 based on targeting Cdc42 GTPase activity to modulate colorectal cancer growth.
PMCID: PMC4222769  PMID: 24279335
Colon cancer; Small molecule inhibitor; Rho GTPases; Cdc42; Cancer therapy; Xenograft model
11.  The BNIP-2 and Cdc42GAP Homology (BCH) Domain of p50RhoGAP/Cdc42GAP Sequesters RhoA from Inactivation by the Adjacent GTPase-activating Protein Domain 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(18):3232-3246.
The BNIP-2 and Cdc42GAP Homology (BCH) domain from p50RhoGAP sequesters RhoA from inactivation by the adjacent GAP domain and it confers unique Rho-binding profile from that of GAP domain. This suppression is further augmented by an intramolecular interaction, adding to a new paradigm for regulating p50RhoGAP signaling.
The BNIP-2 and Cdc42GAP homology (BCH) domain is a novel regulator for Rho GTPases, but its impact on p50-Rho GTPase-activating protein (p50RhoGAP or Cdc42GAP) in cells remains elusive. Here we show that deletion of the BCH domain from p50RhoGAP enhanced its GAP activity and caused drastic cell rounding. Introducing constitutively active RhoA or inactivating GAP domain blocked such effect, whereas replacing the BCH domain with endosome-targeting SNX3 excluded requirement of endosomal localization in regulating the GAP activity. Substitution with homologous BCH domain from Schizosaccharomyces pombe, which does not bind mammalian RhoA, also led to complete loss of suppression. Interestingly, the p50RhoGAP BCH domain only targeted RhoA, but not Cdc42 or Rac1, and it was unable to distinguish between GDP and the GTP-bound form of RhoA. Further mutagenesis revealed a RhoA-binding motif (residues 85-120), which when deleted, significantly reduced BCH inhibition on GAP-mediated cell rounding, whereas its full suppression also required an intramolecular interaction motif (residues 169-197). Therefore, BCH domain serves as a local modulator in cis to sequester RhoA from inactivation by the adjacent GAP domain, adding to a new paradigm for regulating p50RhoGAP signaling.
PMCID: PMC2938388  PMID: 20660160
12.  Cdc42 and Rac Family GTPases Regulate Mode and Speed but Not Direction of Primary Fibroblast Migration during Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-Dependent Chemotaxis ▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(10):2730-2747.
Cdc42 and Rac family GTPases are important regulators of morphology, motility, and polarity in a variety of mammalian cell types. However, comprehensive analysis of their roles in the morphological and behavioral aspects of chemotaxis within a single experimental system is still lacking. Here we demonstrate using a direct viewing chemotaxis assay that of all of the Cdc42/Rac1-related GTPases expressed in primary fibroblasts, Cdc42, Rac1, and RhoG are required for efficient migration towards platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). During migration, Cdc42-, Rac1-, and RhoG-deficient cells show aberrant morphology characterized as cell elongation and cell body rounding, loss of lamellipodia, and formation of thick membrane extensions, respectively. Analysis of individual cell trajectories reveals that cell speed is significantly reduced, as well as persistence, but to a smaller degree, while the directional response to the gradient of PDGF is not affected. Combined knockdown of Cdc42, Rac1, and RhoG results in greater inhibition of cell speed than when each protein is knocked down alone, but the cells are still capable of migrating toward PDGF. We conclude that, Cdc42, Rac1, and RhoG function cooperatively during cell migration and that, while each GTPase is implicated in the control of morphology and cell speed, these and other Cdc42/Rac-related GTPases are not essential for the directional response toward PDGF.
PMCID: PMC2682035  PMID: 19273601
13.  Developmental expression of three small GTPases in the mouse eye 
Molecular Vision  2007;13:1144-1153.
The small GTPases function as "molecular switches" by binding and releasing GTP to mediate downstream signaling effects. The Rho-family of GTPases is central in modulating cell differentiation and cytoskeletal changes. Since eye development requires comprehensive morphogenetic movements and extensive cellular differentiation, we hypothesize that different small GTPases may play important roles during morphogenesis of eye development. To explore this possibility, we examined the expression patterns of three major Rho-GTPases: RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 in embryonic, postnatal (one day after birth), and adult (two-month old) mouse eye.
Various ocular tissues were collected from embryonic, postnatal, and adult C57BL/6 mice. Western blots were conducted using total proteins extracted from cornea, retina, lens epithelial cells, and lens fiber cells of the adult mice or different fractions of rat lenses. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was performed with 6 μm thick sections cut through the eye ball region of 11.5 pc, 14.5 pc, 17.5 pc, postnatal, and adult mice. Parallel controls were run using the rabbit preimmune and GTPase-specific antibodies blocked with saturating levels of corresponding peptide antigen.
In the embryonic mouse eye, RhoA and Cdc42 expressions were initially detectable in all three compartments at 11.5 pc. However, Rac1 became easily detectable in these compartments at 14.5 pc. Increased levels of RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 were detected in the three compartments at 17.5 pc and the strongest signals for RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 were observed in the primary lens fiber cells at 17.5 pc. In the postnatal mouse eye, the three small GTPases were significantly expressed in both endothelial and epithelial cells of mouse cornea, epithelial cells of the ocular lens, photoreceptors, horizontal/amacrine/Muller's cells, and some ganglian cells of the retina. Much lower level of expression was observed in the corneal stroma fibroblasts, lens fiber cells, and the inner and outer plexiform layers of the mouse retina. In the adult mouse eye, all three Rho-GTPases were expressed in corneal epithelial cells and retina. However, only RhoA protein was detected in corneal endothelial cells and Rac1 protein detected in the ocular lens.
The strong expression of the three small GTPases in the cornea, lens, and retina of mouse eye at embryonic 17.5 pc and postnatal stage suggests their important functions for the morphogenesis of the different compartments of the mouse eye. Particularly, high levels of expression of RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 in embryonic lens fiber cells suggest their involvement in differentiation of primary lens fiber cells. In the adult mouse eye, all three Rho-GTPases seem to be involved in differentiation of corneal epithelial cells and retina, however, RhoA alone may be required for endothelial cell differentiation and Rac1 likely plays an important role in supporting continuous lens growth and maintenance of lens transparency.
PMCID: PMC2779149  PMID: 17653061
14.  RNAi screen of Salmonella invasion shows role of COPI in membrane targeting of cholesterol and Cdc42 
A genome wide RNAi screen identifies 72 host cell genes affecting S. Typhimurium entry, including actin regulators and COPI. This study implicates COPI-dependent cholesterol and sphingolipid localization as a common mechanism of infection by bacterial and viral pathogens.
Genome-scale RNAi screen identifies 72 host genes affecting S. Typhimurium host cell invasion.Step-specific follow-up assays assign the phenotypes to specific steps of the invasion process.COPI effects on host cell binding, ruffling and invasion were traced to a key role of COPI in membrane targeting of cholesterol, sphingolipids, Rac1 and Cdc42.This new role of COPI explains why COPI is required for host cell infection by numerous bacterial and viral pathogens.
Pathogens are not only a menace to public health, but they also provide excellent tools for probing host cell function. Thus, studying infection mechanisms has fueled progress in cell biology (Ridley et al, 1992; Welch et al, 1997). In the presented study, we have performed an RNAi screen to identify host cell genes required for Salmonella host cell invasion. This screen identified proteins known to contribute to Salmonella-induced actin rearrangements (e.g., Cdc42 and the Arp2/3 complex; reviewed in Schlumberger and Hardt, 2006) and vesicular traffic (e.g., Rab7) as well as unexpected hits, such as the COPI complex. COPI is a known organizer of Golgi-to-ER vesicle transport (Bethune et al, 2006; Beck et al, 2009). Here, we show that COPI is also involved in plasma membrane targeting of cholesterol, sphingolipids and the Rho GTPases Cdc42 and Rac1, essential host cell factors required for Salmonella invasion. This explains why COPI depletion inhibits infection by S. Typhimurium and illustrates how combining bacterial pathogenesis and systems approaches can promote cell biology.
Salmonella Typhimurium is a common food-borne pathogen and worldwide a major public health problem causing severe diarrhea. The pathogen uses the host's gut mucosa as a portal of entry and gut tissue invasion is a key event leading to the disease. This explains the intense interest from medicine and basic biology in the mechanism of Salmonella host cell invasion.
Tissue culture infection models have delineated a sequence of events leading host cell invasion (Figure 1; Schlumberger and Hardt, 2006): (i) pathogen binding to the host cell surface; (ii) activation of a syringe-like apparatus (‘Type III secretion system 1', T1) of the bacterium and injection of a bacterial toxin cocktail into the host cell. These toxins include SopE, a key virulence factor triggering invasion (Hardt et al, 1998), which was analyzed in our study; (iii) toxin-triggered membrane ruffling. To a significant extent, this is facilitated by SopE-triggered activation of Cdc42 and Rac1 and subsequent actin polymerization at the site of infection; (iv) engulfment of the pathogen within a vesicular compartment (SCV) and (v) maturation of the SCV, a process driven by a second Type III secretion system (T2), which is expressed by the pathogen upon bacterial entry (Figure 1). This sequence of events mediates Salmonella invasion into the gut epithelium and illustrates that this pathogen can be used for probing mechanisms of host cell actin control, membrane biogenesis, vesicle formation and vesicular trafficking.
SopE is a key virulence factor of invasion and triggers the activation of Cdc42 and Rac1 and subsequent actin polymerization at the site of infection. We have employed a SopE-expressing S. Typhimurium strain and RNAi screening technology to identify host cell factors affecting invasion. First, we developed an automated fluorescence microscopy assay to quantify S. Typhimurium entry in a high-throughput format (Figure 1C). This assay was based on a GFP reporter expressed by the pathogen after invasion and maturation of the SCV. Using this assay, we screened a ‘druggable genome' siRNA library (6978 genes, 3 oligos each, 1 oligo per well) and identified 72 invasion hits. These included established regulators of the actin cytoskeleton (Cdc42, Arp2/3, Nap1; Schlumberger and Hardt, 2006), some of which have not been implicated so far in Salmonella entry (Pfn1, Cap1), as well as proteins not previously thought to influence infection (Atp1a1, Rbx1, COPI complex). Potentially, these hits could affect any step of the invasion process (Figure 1A).
In the second stage of the study, we have assigned each ‘invasion hit' to particular steps of the invasion process. For this purpose, we developed step-specific assays for Salmonella binding, injection, ruffling and membrane engulfment and re-screened the genes found as hits in the first screen (four siRNAs per gene). As expected, a significant number of ‘hits' affected binding to the host cell, others affected binding and ruffling (e.g., Pfn1, Itgβ5, Cap1), a few were specific for the ruffling step (e.g., Cdc42) and some affected SCV maturation, namely Rab7a, the trafficking protein Vps39 and the vacuolar proton pump Atp6ap2. Thus, our experimental strategy allowed mechanistic interpretation and linked novel hits to particular phenotypes, thus providing a basis for further studies (Figure 1).
COPI depletion impaired effector injection and ruffling. This was surprising, as the COPI complex was known to regulate retrogade Golgi-to-ER transport, but was not expected to affect pathogen interactions at the plasma membrane. Therefore, we have investigated the underlying mechanism. We have observed that COPI depletion entailed dramatic changes in the plasma membrane composition (Figure 6). Cholesterol and sphingolipids, which form domains (‘lipid rafts') in the plasma membrane, were depleted from the cell surface and redirected into a large vesicular compartment. The same was true for the Rho GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42. This strong decrease in the amount of cholesterol-enriched microdomains and Rho GTPases in the plasma membrane explained the observed defects in S. Typhimurium host cell invasion and assigned a novel role for COPI in controlling mammalian plasma membrane composition. It should be noted that other viral and bacterial pathogens do show a similar dependency on host cellular COPI and plasma membrane lipids. This includes notorious pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus (Ramet et al, 2002; Potrich et al, 2009), Listeria monocytogenes (Seveau et al, 2004; Agaisse et al, 2005; Cheng et al, 2005; Gekara et al, 2005), Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Munoz et al, 2009), Chlamydia trachomatis (Elwell et al, 2008), influenza virus (Hao et al, 2008; Konig et al, 2010), hepatitis C virus (Tai et al, 2009; Popescu and Dubuisson, 2010) and the vesicular stomatitis virus (presented study) and suggests that COPI-mediated control of host cell plasma membrane composition might be of broad importance for pathogenesis. Future work will have to address whether this might offer starting points for developing anti-infective therapeutics with a very broad spectrum of activity.
The pathogen Salmonella Typhimurium is a common cause of diarrhea and invades the gut tissue by injecting a cocktail of virulence factors into epithelial cells, triggering actin rearrangements, membrane ruffling and pathogen entry. One of these factors is SopE, a G-nucleotide exchange factor for the host cellular Rho GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42. How SopE mediates cellular invasion is incompletely understood. Using genome-scale RNAi screening we identified 72 known and novel host cell proteins affecting SopE-mediated entry. Follow-up assays assigned these ‘hits' to particular steps of the invasion process; i.e., binding, effector injection, membrane ruffling, membrane closure and maturation of the Salmonella-containing vacuole. Depletion of the COPI complex revealed a unique effect on virulence factor injection and membrane ruffling. Both effects are attributable to mislocalization of cholesterol, sphingolipids, Rac1 and Cdc42 away from the plasma membrane into a large intracellular compartment. Equivalent results were obtained with the vesicular stomatitis virus. Therefore, COPI-facilitated maintenance of lipids may represent a novel, unifying mechanism essential for a wide range of pathogens, offering opportunities for designing new drugs.
PMCID: PMC3094068  PMID: 21407211
coatomer; HeLa; Salmonella; siRNA; systems biology
15.  RhoGDIα-dependent balance between RhoA and RhoC is a key regulator of cancer cell tumorigenesis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(17):3263-3275.
The intracellular levels and activity of RhoA and RhoC, two closely related homologues of the RhoGTPase family, are interdependent, and their cross-talk requires RhoGDIά. This dynamic balance regulates the activation of the ROCK downstream effector and the expression of several genes, including NAG-1, that alter tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo.
RhoGTPases are key signaling molecules regulating main cellular functions such as migration, proliferation, survival, and gene expression through interactions with various effectors. Within the RhoA-related subclass, RhoA and RhoC contribute to several steps of tumor growth, and the regulation of their expression affects cancer progression. Our aim is to investigate their respective contributions to the acquisition of an invasive phenotype by using models of reduced or forced expression. The silencing of RhoC, but not of RhoA, increased the expression of genes encoding tumor suppressors, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug–activated gene 1 (NAG-1), and decreased migration and the anchorage-independent growth in vitro. In vivo, RhoC small interfering RNA (siRhoC) impaired tumor growth. Of interest, the simultaneous knockdown of RhoC and NAG-1 repressed most of the siRhoC-related effects, demonstrating the central role of NAG-1. In addition of being induced by RhoC silencing, NAG-1 was also largely up-regulated in cells overexpressing RhoA. The silencing of RhoGDP dissociation inhibitor α (RhoGDIα) and the overexpression of a RhoA mutant unable to bind RhoGDIα suggested that the effect of RhoC silencing is indirect and results from the up-regulation of the RhoA level through competition for RhoGDIα. This study demonstrates the dynamic balance inside the RhoGTPase network and illustrates its biological relevance in cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3164471  PMID: 21757538
16.  Ras-related GTPases and the cytoskeleton. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1992;3(5):475-479.
Incorporation of the available data on rac in neutrophils, CDC42 in yeast, and rho in fibroblasts suggests a general model for the function of rho-like GTPase (Figure 1). Conversion of an inactive cytoplasmic rho-related p21GDP/GDI complex to active p21. GTP occurs by inhibition of GAP and/or stimulation of exchange factors in response to cell signals. p21.GTP is then able to interact with its target at the plasma membrane. This could result in a conformational change in the target, enabling it to bind cytosolic protein(s). Alternatively, p21.GTP could be actively involved in transporting cytosolic protein(s) to the target. A GAP protein, perhaps intrinsic to the complex, would stimulate GTP hydrolysis allowing p21.GDP to dissociate. Solubilization of p21GDP by interaction with GDI would complete a cycle. What about the nature of the final complex? The rac-regulated NADPH oxidase complex in neutrophils is currently the best understood and most amenable to further biochemical analysis. Two plasma-membrane bound subunits encode the catalytic function necessary for producing superoxide, but the two cytosolic proteins, p47 and p67, are essential for activity. Why the complexity? Production of superoxide is tightly coordinated with phagocytosis, a membrane process driven by rearrangement of cortical actin. This is not unrelated to the membrane ruffling and macropinocytosis that we observe in fibroblasts microinjected with p21rac. It is tempting to speculate, therefore, that in neutrophils rac is involved not only in promoting the assembly of the NADPH oxidase but also in the coordinate reorganization of cortical actin leading to phagocytosis. For CDC42 controlled bud assembly in yeast, the components of the plasma-membrane complex are not so clear. By analogy with rac in neutrophils, it seems likely that CDC42 is involved in promoting the assembly of cytosolic components at the bud site on the plasma membrane. These putative cytosolic proteins have not yet been identified, but BEM1 and ABP1 are two possible candidates. The biochemical basis for the stimulation of adhesion plaques and actin stress fibers by p21rho in fibroblasts is also unclear. However, components of the adhesion plaque such as vinculin and talin are known to be cytosolic when not complexed with integrin receptors, and rho could be involved in regulating their assembly into the adhesion plaque. Several things are still difficult to incorporate into this model. First the target for CDC42, the bud site, although not yet structurally defined requires the activity of another small GTPase, BUD1. Similarly, in activated neutrophils, the NADPH oxidase is found in a complex with rap1, the mammalian homologue of BUD1 (BoKoch et al., 1989). It seems likely, therefore, that the target is not simply a plasma-membrane protein but may be a complex of proteins whose formation is under the control of the rap1/BUD1 GTPase. The other black box in this model is the actin connection: activation of bud assembly by CDC42 is followed by actin polymerization, activation of NADPH oxidase in neutrophils occurs concomitantly with phagocytosis, a cortical actin-dependent process, and p21rho in fibroblasts couples the formation of adhesion plaques to actin stress fibers. One possible link between the GTPase-driven assembly of a plasma-membrane complex and actin polymerization could involve the SH3 domain. Interestingly, both p47 and p67 and yeast ABP1 and BEM1 have SH3 domain. If rho-like GTPases recognize plasma-membrane targets already associated with cortical actin, then this could promote an interaction with a subset of SH3-containing proteins. The result of this would be a GTPase-regulated aggregation of a group of proteins at a single site in the plasma membrane. It is not too difficult to imagine biological processes where such a spatial integration of different biochemical activities would be essential: coupling the assembly of bud components to the formation of actin fibers in yeast; or the activation of NADPH oxidase to phagocytosis in neutrophils; or the assembly of adhesion plaques and the formation of actin stress fibers in fibroblasts are just three examples that have emerged so far. In conclusion, although rho-like GTPases clearly have distinct roles in different mammalian cell types and in yeast, their underlying mechanism of action appears to be strikingly similar. Whether this will remain so when there are some biochemical data to back up these initial observations, time will tell.
PMCID: PMC275601  PMID: 1611153
17.  The Hematopoiesis-Specific GTP-Binding Protein RhoH Is GTPase Deficient and Modulates Activities of Other Rho GTPases by an Inhibitory Function 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(4):1158-1171.
The Rho subfamily of small GTP-binding proteins mediates many fundamental cellular functions. The commonly studied members (Rho, Rac, and CDC42) regulate actin reorganization, affecting diverse cellular responses, including adhesion, cytokinesis, and motility. Another major function of the Rho GTPases is their role in regulating transcriptional factors and nuclear signaling. RhoH is encoded by a hematopoiesis-specific Rho-related gene recently identified in a fusion transcript with bcl6 in lymphoma cell lines. Significantly, translocations and a high frequency of RhoH mutation have been detected in primary lymphoma cells. We show here that RhoH functions differently from other Rho GTPases. RhoH exerts no significant effect on actin reorganization. However, RhoH is a potent inhibitor of the activation of NFκB and p38 by other Rho GTPases. This property, together with the differential expression of RhoH in the Th1 subset of T cells, suggests a role for RhoH in the functional differentiation of T cells. RhoH has different amino acids in two highly conserved residues critical for GTPase activity. Consequently, RhoH is GTPase deficient, remaining in a GTP-bound activated state without cycling. Reduction of RhoH levels in T cells augments the response to Rac activation. Furthermore, RhoH is dramatically down regulated after phorbol myristate acetate treatment and in Th1 cells after activation by anti-CD3. Hence, a mechanism for regulation of RhoH function is likely to exist at the transcriptional level. The inhibitory function of RhoH supports a model in which Rho GTPases with opposing functions may compete to modulate the final outcome of a particular GTPase-activated pathway.
PMCID: PMC134637  PMID: 11809807
18.  A RAC/CDC-42–Independent GIT/PIX/PAK Signaling Pathway Mediates Cell Migration in C. elegans 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(11):e1000269.
P21 activated kinase (PAK), PAK interacting exchange factor (PIX), and G protein coupled receptor kinase interactor (GIT) compose a highly conserved signaling module controlling cell migrations, immune system signaling, and the formation of the mammalian nervous system. Traditionally, this signaling module is thought to facilitate the function of RAC and CDC-42 GTPases by allowing for the recruitment of a GTPase effector (PAK), a GTPase activator (PIX), and a scaffolding protein (GIT) as a regulated signaling unit to specific subcellular locations. Instead, we report here that this signaling module functions independently of RAC/CDC-42 GTPases in vivo to control the cell shape and migration of the distal tip cells (DTCs) during morphogenesis of the Caenorhabditis elegans gonad. In addition, this RAC/CDC-42–independent PAK pathway functions in parallel to a classical GTPase/PAK pathway to control the guidance aspect of DTC migration. Among the C. elegans PAKs, only PAK-1 functions in the GIT/PIX/PAK pathway independently of RAC/CDC42 GTPases, while both PAK-1 and MAX-2 are redundantly utilized in the GTPase/PAK pathway. Both RAC/CDC42–dependent and –independent PAK pathways function with the integrin receptors, suggesting that signaling through integrins can control the morphology, movement, and guidance of DTC through discrete pathways. Collectively, our results define a new signaling capacity for the GIT/PIX/PAK module that is likely to be conserved in vertebrates and demonstrate that PAK family members, which are redundantly utilized as GTPase effectors, can act non-redundantly in pathways independent of these GTPases.
Author Summary
Cell migration is essential for the development and maintenance of metazoan tissue. A migrating cell must navigate through complex environments and properly interpret the signals present in its path. This cellular movement is accomplished through transduction of the signals into directed reorganization of the cellular structure. Among the most important molecules that orchestrate signals from the exterior of the cells into cellular movement are the small GTPases, which function in intracellular signal transduction cascades. We have studied the interactions between GTPases, their effectors, and the environmental signals during cellular migrations in C. elegans. We have found that while some GTPases do control the guidance of these migrating cells, a certain highly conserved complex of proteins thought to be involved in mediating GTPase signaling during cellular migrations in fact functions independently of these GTPases to specifically control the structure and movement of the migrating cells. These results have revealed an unexpected role of a well-known and highly conserved signaling complex, which is particularly important since members of this complex are associated with human mental retardation. Our results may imply that the disease phenotype is likely more complex than previously thought and may in fact occur from disruption of this novel pathway.
PMCID: PMC2581894  PMID: 19023419
19.  Activation of Cdc42, Rac, PAK, and Rho-Kinase in Response to Hepatocyte Growth Factor Differentially Regulates Epithelial Cell Colony Spreading and Dissociation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2000;11(5):1709-1725.
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), the ligand for the Met receptor tyrosine kinase, is a potent modulator of epithelial–mesenchymal transition and dispersal of epithelial cells, processes that play crucial roles in tumor development, invasion, and metastasis. Little is known about the Met-dependent proximal signals that regulate these events. We show that HGF stimulation of epithelial cells leads to activation of the Rho GTPases, Cdc42 and Rac, concomitant with the formation of filopodia and lamellipodia. Notably, HGF-dependent activation of Rac but not Cdc42 is dependent on phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. Moreover, HGF-induced lamellipodia formation and cell spreading require phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and are inhibited by dominant negative Cdc42 or Rac. HGF induces activation of the Cdc42/Rac-regulated p21-activated kinase (PAK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase, and translocation of Rac, PAK, and Rho-dependent Rho-kinase to membrane ruffles. Use of dominant negative and activated mutants reveals an essential role for PAK but not Rho-kinase in HGF-induced epithelial cell spreading, whereas Rho-kinase activity is required for the formation of focal adhesions and stress fibers in response to HGF. We conclude that PAK and Rho-kinase play opposing roles in epithelial–mesenchymal transition induced by HGF, and provide new insight regarding the role of Cdc42 in these events.
PMCID: PMC14878  PMID: 10793146
20.  The Human Minor Histocompatibility Antigen1 Is a RhoGAP 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73962.
The human minor Histocompatibility Antigen HMHA-1 is a major target of immune responses after allogeneic stem cell transplantation applied for the treatment of leukemia and solid tumors. The restriction of its expression to hematopoietic cells and many solid tumors raised questions regarding its cellular functions. Sequence analysis of the HMHA-1 encoding HMHA1 protein revealed the presence of a possible C-terminal RhoGTPase Activating Protein (GAP) domain and an N-terminal BAR domain. Rho-family GTPases, including Rac1, Cdc42, and RhoA are key regulators of the actin cytoskeleton and control cell spreading and migration. RhoGTPase activity is under tight control as aberrant signaling can lead to pathology, including inflammation and cancer. Whereas Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors (GEFs) mediate the exchange of GDP for GTP resulting in RhoGTPase activation, GAPs catalyze the low intrinsic GTPase activity of active RhoGTPases, resulting in inactivation. Here we identify the HMHA1 protein as a novel RhoGAP. We show that HMHA1 constructs, lacking the N-terminal region, negatively regulate the actin cytoskeleton as well as cell spreading. Furthermore, we show that HMHA1 regulates RhoGTPase activity in vitro and in vivo. Finally, we demonstrate that the HMHA1 N-terminal BAR domain is auto-inhibitory as HMHA1 mutants lacking this region, but not full-length HMHA1, showed GAP activity towards RhoGTPases. In conclusion, this study shows that HMHA1 acts as a RhoGAP to regulate GTPase activity, cytoskeletal remodeling and cell spreading, which are crucial functions in normal hematopoietic and cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3781157  PMID: 24086303
21.  Cooperative Anti-Invasive Effect of Cdc42/Rac1 Activation and ROCK Inhibition in SW620 Colorectal Cancer Cells with Elevated Blebbing Activity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48344.
Rho GTPases are key regulators of tumour cell invasion and therefore constitute attractive targets for the design of anticancer agents. Several strategies have been developed to modulate their increased activities during cancer progression. Interestingly, none of these approaches took into account the existence of the well-known antagonistic relationship between RhoA and Rac1. In this study, we first compared the invasiveness of a collection of colorectal cancer cell lines with their RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42 activities. A marked decrease of active Cdc42 and Rac1 correlated with the high invasive potential of the cell lines established from metastatic sites of colorectal adenocarcinoma (LoVo, SKCo1, SW620 and CoLo205). Conversely, no correlation between RhoA activity and invasiveness was detected, whereas the activity of its kinase effector ROCK was higher in cancer cell lines with a more invasive phenotype. In addition, invasiveness in these colon cancer cell lines was correlated with a typical round and blebbing morphology. We then tested whether treatment with PDGF to restore Cdc42 and Rac1 activities and/or with Y27632, a chemical inhibitor of ROCK, could decrease the invasiveness of SW620 cells. The association of both treatments substantially decreased the invasive potential of SW620 cells and this effect was accompanied by loss of membrane blebbing, restoration of a more elongated cell morphology and re-establishment of E-cadherin-dependent adherens junctions. This study paves the road to the development of therapeutic strategies in which different Rho GTPase modulators are combined to modulate the cross-talk between Rho GTPases and their specific input in metastatic progression.
PMCID: PMC3492328  PMID: 23144867
22.  Dock10, a Cdc42 and Rac1 GEF, induces loss of elongation, filopodia, and ruffles in cervical cancer epithelial HeLa cells 
Biology Open  2015;4(5):627-635.
Dock10 is one of the three members of the Dock-D family of Dock proteins, a class of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) for Rho GTPases. Its homologs Dock9 and Dock11 are Cdc42 GEFs. Dock10 is required for maintenance of rounded morphology and amoeboid-type movement. Full-length isoforms of Dock10 have been recently cloned. Here, we address GTPase specificity and GEF activity of Dock10. In order of decreasing intensity, Dock10 interacted with nucleotide-free Rac1, Cdc42, and Rac3, and more weakly with Rac2, RhoF, and RhoG. Inducible expression of Dock10 in HeLa epithelial cells promoted GEF activity on Cdc42 and Rac1, and a morphologic change in two-dimensional culture consisting in loss of cell elongation, increase of filopodia, and ruffles. Area in contact with the substrate of cells that spread with non-elongated morphology was larger in cells expressing Dock10. Inducible expression of constitutively active mutants of Cdc42 and Rac1 in HeLa cells also induced loss of elongation. However, Cdc42 induced filopodia and contraction, and Rac1 induced membrane ruffles and flattening. When co-expressed with Dock10, Cdc42 potentiated filopodia, and Rac1 potentiated ruffles. These results suggest that Dock10 functions as a dual GEF for Cdc42 and Rac1, affecting cell morphology, spreading and actin cytoskeleton protrusions of adherent HeLa cells.
PMCID: PMC4434814  PMID: 25862245
Dock10; Dock9; Dock11; Cdc42; Rac1; filopodia; membrane ruffles
23.  A Rac1/Cdc42 GTPase-Specific Small Molecule Inhibitor Suppresses Growth of Primary Human Prostate Cancer Xenografts and Prolongs Survival in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74924.
Deregulated Rho GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42 have been discovered in various tumors, including prostate and Rac protein expression significantly increases in prostate cancer. The Rac and Cdc42 pathways promote the uncontrolled proliferation, invasion and metastatic properties of human cancer cells. We synthesized the novel compound AZA1 based on structural information of the known Rac1 inhibitor NSC23766. In the current study we investigated the effects of inhibition of these pathways by AZA1 on prostate tumorigenicity by performing preclinical studies using a xenograft mouse model of prostate cancer. In androgen-independent prostate cancer cells, AZA1 inhibited both Rac1 and Cdc42 but not RhoA GTPase activity in a dose-dependent manner and blocked cellular migration and proliferation. Cyclin D1 expression significantly decreased following Rac1/Cdc42 inhibition in prostate cancer cells. AZA1 treatment also down-regulated PAK and AKT activity in prostate cancer cells, associated with induction of the pro-apoptotic function of BAD by suppression of serine-112 phosphorylation. Daily systemic administration of AZA1 for 2 weeks reduced growth of human 22Rv1 prostate tumor xenografts in mice and improved the survival of tumor-bearing animals significantly. These data suggest a role of AZA1 in blocking Rac1/Cdc42-dependent cell cycle progression, cancer cell migration and increase of cancer cell apoptosis involving down-regulation of the AKT and PAK signaling pathway in prostate cancer cells. We therefore propose that a small-molecule inhibitor therapy targeting Rac1/Cdc42 Rho GTPase signaling pathways may be used as a novel treatment for patients with advanced prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3770583  PMID: 24040362
24.  Increased diacylglycerol kinase ζ expression in human metastatic colon cancer cells augments Rho GTPase activity and contributes to enhanced invasion 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:208.
Unraveling the signaling pathways responsible for the establishment of a metastatic phenotype in carcinoma cells is critically important for understanding the pathology of cancer. The acquisition of cell motility is a key property of metastatic tumor cells and is a prerequisite for invasion. Rho GTPases regulate actin cytoskeleton reorganization and the cellular responses required for cell motility and invasion. Diacylglycerol kinase ζ (DGKζ), an enzyme that phosphorylates diacylglycerol to yield phosphatidic acid, regulates the activity of the Rho GTPases Rac1 and RhoA. DGKζ mRNA is highly expressed in several different colon cancer cell lines, as well as in colon cancer tissue relative to normal colonic epithelium, and thus may contribute to the metastatic process.
To investigate potential roles of DGKζ in cancer metastasis, a cellular, isogenic model of human colorectal cancer metastatic transition was used. DGKζ protein levels, Rac1 and RhoA activity, and PAK phosphorylation were measured in the non-metastatic SW480 adenocarcinoma cell line and its highly metastatic variant, the SW620 line. The effect of DGKζ silencing on Rho GTPase activity and invasion through Matrigel-coated Transwell inserts was studied in SW620 cells. Invasiveness was also measured in PC-3 prostate cancer and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells depleted of DGKζ.
DGKζ protein levels were elevated approximately 3-fold in SW620 cells compared to SW480 cells. There was a concomitant increase in active Rac1 in SW620 cells, as well as substantial increases in the expression and phosphorylation of the Rac1 effector PAK1. Similarly, RhoA activity and expression were increased in SW620 cells. Knockdown of DGKζ expression in SW620 cells by shRNA-mediated silencing significantly reduced Rac1 and RhoA activity and attenuated the invasiveness of SW620 cells in vitro. DGKζ silencing in highly metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and PC-3 prostate cancer cells also significantly attenuated their invasiveness.
Elevated DGKζ expression contributes to increased Rho GTPase activation and the enhanced motility of metastatic cancer cells. These findings warrant further investigation of the clinical relevance of DGKζ upregulation in colon and other cancers. Interfering with DGKζ function could provide a means of inhibiting invasion and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3995506  PMID: 24646293
Colon carcinoma; Diacylglycerol kinase; Rho GTPase; Metastasis
25.  αvβ8 integrin interacts with RhoGDI1 to regulate Rac1 and Cdc42 activation and drive glioblastoma cell invasion 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(4):474-482.
Experiments with human cancer glioblastoma multiforme cell lines, primary patient samples, and preclinical mouse models are performed to show that αvβ8 integrin and RhoGDI1 are components of a signaling axis that drives brain tumor cell invasion via regulation of Rho GTPase activation.
The malignant brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) displays invasive growth behaviors that are regulated by extracellular cues within the neural microenvironment. The adhesion and signaling pathways that drive GBM cell invasion remain largely uncharacterized. Here we use human GBM cell lines, primary patient samples, and preclinical mouse models to demonstrate that integrin αvβ8 is a major driver of GBM cell invasion. β8 integrin is overexpressed in many human GBM cells, with higher integrin expression correlating with increased invasion and diminished patient survival. Silencing β8 integrin in human GBM cells leads to impaired tumor cell invasion due to hyperactivation of the Rho GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42. β8 integrin coimmunoprecipitates with Rho-GDP dissociation inhibitor 1 (RhoGDI1), an intracellular signaling effector that sequesters Rho GTPases in their inactive GDP-bound states. Silencing RhoGDI1 expression or uncoupling αvβ8 integrin–RhoGDI1 protein interactions blocks GBM cell invasion due to Rho GTPase hyperactivation. These data reveal for the first time that αvβ8 integrin, via interactions with RhoGDI1, regulates activation of Rho proteins to promote GBM cell invasiveness. Hence targeting the αvβ8 integrin–RhoGDI1 signaling axis might be an effective strategy for blocking GBM cell invasion.
PMCID: PMC3571870  PMID: 23283986

Results 1-25 (1227772)