The p21-activated kinase (PAK) family of serine/threonine kinases plays a pivotal role in physiological processes including motility, survival, mitosis, transcription and translation. PAKs are evolutionally conserved and widely expressed in a variety of tissues and are often over expressed in multiple cancer types. Depending on structural and functional similarities, the six members of PAK family are divided into two groups with three members in each group. Group I PAKs are activated by extracellular signals through GTPase-dependent and independent mechanisms. In contrast, group II PAKs are constitutively active. Over the years, accumulating data from tissue culture models and human tumors has increased our understanding about the biology of PAK family members. In this review, we have summarized the complex regulation of PAK and its downstream diverse myriads of effectors which in-turn are responsible for the biologic effects of PAK family of kinases in cancer cells.
PAK; cancer; cytoskeleton; survival; mitosis; knockout mice
Cytoskeletal remodeling is critical for cell adhesion, spreading, and motility. p21-activated kinase (PAK), an effector molecule of the Rho GTPases Rac and Cdc42, has been implicated in cytoskeletal remodeling and cell motility. PAK kinase activity and subcellular distribution are tightly regulated by rapid and transient localized Rac and Cdc42 activation, and by interactions mediated by adapter proteins. Here, we show that endogenous PAK is constitutively activated in certain breast cancer cell lines and that this active PAK is mislocalized to atypical focal adhesions in the absence of high levels of activated Rho GTPases. PAK localization to focal adhesions in these cells is independent of PAK kinase activity, NCK binding, or GTPase binding, but requires the association of PAK with PIX. Disruption of the PAK–PIX interaction with competitive peptides displaces PAK from focal adhesions and results in a substantial reduction in PAK hyperactivity. Moreover, disruption of the PAK–PIX interaction is associated with a dramatic decrease of PIX and paxillin in focal adhesions, indicating that PAK localization to these structures via PIX is required for the maintenance of paxillin- and PIX-containing focal adhesions. Abnormal regulation of PAK localization and activity may contribute to the tumorigenic properties of certain breast cancer cells.
Pak5 is the most recently identified and least understood member of the p21-activated kinase (Pak) family. This kinase is known to promote neurite outgrowth in vitro, but its localization, substrates, and effects on cell survival have not been reported. We show here that Pak5 has unique properties that distinguish it from all other members of the Pak family. First, Pak5, unlike Pak1, cannot complement an STE20 mutation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Second, Pak5 binds to the GTPases Cdc42 and Rac, but these GTPases do not regulate Pak5 kinase activity, which is constitutive and stronger than any other Pak. Third, Pak5 prevents apoptosis induced by camptothecin and C2-ceramide by phosphorylating BAD on Ser-112 in a protein kinase A-independent manner and prevents the localization of BAD to mitochondria, thereby inhibiting the apoptotic cascade that leads to apoptosis. Finally, we show that Pak5 itself is constitutively localized to mitochondria, and that this localization is independent of kinase activity or Cdc42 binding. These features make Pak5 unique among the Pak family and suggest that it plays an important role in apoptosis through BAD phosphorylation.
PAK1 is a member of the p21-activated kinase (PAK) family of serine/threonine kinases that are activated by the Rho GTPases Rac and Cdc42 and are implicated in regulating morphological polarity, cell migration and adhesion. Here we investigate the function of PAK1 in cell motility using macrophages derived from PAK1-null mice. We show that CSF-1, a macrophage chemoattractant, transiently stimulates PAK1 and MAPK activation, and that MAPK activation is reduced in PAK1−/− macrophages. PAK1 regulates the dynamics of lamellipodium extension as cells spread in response to adhesion but is not essential for macrophage migration or chemotaxis towards CSF-1. Following adhesion, PAK1−/− macrophages spread more rapidly than wild-type macrophages and have more but less stable lamellipodia. ERK1/2 activity was reduced in PAK1−/− macrophages during adhesion, and inhibition of ERK1/2 activation in wild-type macrophages was sufficient to increase the spread area and mimic the lamellipodial dynamics of PAK1−/− macrophages. Together, these data indicate that PAK1 signals via ERK1/2 to regulate lamellipodial stability.
PAK1; ERK1/2; cell adhesion; cell migration; macrophages; Rho GTPases
The precise temporal-spatial regulation of the p21-activated serine-threonine kinase PAK at the plasma membrane is required for proper cytoskeletal reorganization and cell motility. However, the mechanism by which PAK localizes to focal adhesions has not yet been elucidated. Indirect binding of PAK to the focal adhesion protein paxillin via the Arf-GAP protein paxillin kinase linker (PKL) and PIX/Cool suggested a mechanism. In this report, we demonstrate an essential role for a paxillin–PKL interaction in the recruitment of activated PAK to focal adhesions. Similar to PAK, expression of activated Cdc42 and Rac1, but not RhoA, stimulated the translocation of PKL from a generally diffuse localization to focal adhesions. Expression of the PAK regulatory domain (PAK1–329) or the autoinhibitory domain (AID 83–149) induced PKL, PIX, and PAK localization to focal adhesions, indicating a role for PAK scaffold activation. We show PIX, but not NCK, binding to PAK is necessary for efficient focal adhesion localization of PAK and PKL, consistent with a PAK–PIX–PKL linkage. Although PAK activation is required, it is not sufficient for localization. The PKL amino terminus, containing the PIX-binding site, but lacking paxillin-binding subdomain 2 (PBS2), was unable to localize to focal adhesions and also abrogated PAK localization. An identical result was obtained after PKLΔPBS2 expression. Finally, neither PAK nor PKL was capable of localizing to focal adhesions in cells overexpressing paxillinΔLD4, confirming a requirement for this motif in recruitment of the PAK–PIX–PKL complex to focal adhesions. These results suggest a GTP-Cdc42/GTP-Rac triggered multistep activation cascade leading to the stimulation of the adaptor function of PAK, which through interaction with PIX provokes a functional PKL PBS2–paxillin LD4 association and consequent recruitment to focal adhesions. This mechanism is probably critical for the correct subcellular positioning of PAK, thereby influencing the ability of PAK to coordinate cytoskeletal reorganization associated with changes in cell shape and motility.
Pak1 (p21 activated kinase 1) is a serine/threonine kinase implicated in regulation of cell motility and survival and in malignant transformation of mammary epithelial cells. In addition, the dynein light chain, LC8, has been described to cooperate with Pak1 in malignant transformation of breast cancer cells. Pak1 itself may aid breast cancer development by phosphorylating nuclear proteins, including estrogen receptor alpha. Recently, we showed that the LC8 binding site on Pak1 is adjacent to the nuclear localization sequence (NLS) required for Pak1 nuclear import. Here, we demonstrate that the LC8-Pak1 interaction is necessary for epidermal growth factor (EGF)-induced nuclear import of Pak1 in MCF-7 cells, and that this event is contingent upon LC8-mediated Pak1 dimerization. In contrast, Pak2, which lacks an LC8 binding site but contains a nuclear localization sequence identical to that in Pak1, remains cytoplasmic upon EGF stimulation of MCF-7 cells. Furthermore, we show that severe developmental defects in zebrafish embryos caused by morpholino injections targeting Pak are partially rescued by co-injection of wild-type human Pak1, but not by co-injection of mutant Pak1 mRNA disrupting either the LC8 binding or the NLS site. Collectively, these results suggest that LC8 facilitates nuclear import of Pak1 and that this function is indispensable during vertebrate development.
Coordination of the different cytoskeleton networks in the cell is of central importance for morphogenesis, organelle transport, and motility. The Rho family proteins are well characterized for their effects on the actin cytoskeleton, but increasing evidence indicates that they may also control microtubule (MT) dynamics. Here, we demonstrate that a novel Cdc42/Rac effector, X-p21-activated kinase (PAK)5, colocalizes and binds to both the actin and MT networks and that its subcellular localization is regulated during cell cycle progression. In transfected cells, X-PAK5 promotes the formation of stabilized MTs that are associated in bundles and interferes with MTs dynamics, slowing both the elongation and shrinkage rates and inducing long paused periods. X-PAK5 subcellular localization is regulated tightly, since coexpression with active Rac or Cdc42 induces its shuttling to actin-rich structures. Thus, X-PAK5 is a novel MT-associated protein that may communicate between the actin and MT networks during cellular responses to environmental conditions.
PAK; actin; microtubules; stabilization; dynamics
p21-activated kinase 5 (Pak5) is an effector for the small GTPase Cdc42, known to activate cell survival signaling pathways. Previously, we have shown that Pak5 localizes primarily to mitochondria. To study the relationship between Pak5 localization and its effects on apoptosis, we identified three N-terminal regions that regulate the localization of this kinase: a mitochondrial targeting sequence, a nuclear export sequence, and a nuclear localization sequence. When the first two sequences are deleted, Pak5 is retained in the nucleus and no longer protects cells from apoptosis. Moreover, blockade of nuclear export with leptomycin B causes endogenous Pak5 to accumulate in the nucleus. Additionally, the removal of the N-terminal nuclear localization sequence abolishes Pak5 translocation to the nucleus. Finally, we show that reduction of endogenous Pak5 expression in neuroblastoma and neural stem cells increases their sensitivity to apoptosis and that this effect is reversed upon reexpression of wild-type Pak5 but not of a mutant form of Pak5 that cannot localize to mitochondria. These results show that Pak5 shuttles from mitochondria to the nucleus and that the mitochondrial localization of Pak5 is vital to its effects on cell survival.
Raf-1 is an important effector of Ras mediated signaling and is a critical regulator of the ERK/MAPK pathway. Raf-1 activation is controlled in part by phosphorylation on multiple residues, including an obligate phosphorylation site at serine 338. Previously PAK1 and casein kinase II have been implicated as serine 338 kinases. To identify novel kinases that phosphorylate this site, we tested the ability of group II PAKs (PAKs 4-6) to control serine 338 phosphorylation. We observed that all group II PAKs were efficient serine 338 kinases, although only PAK1 and PAK5 significantly stimulated Raf-1 kinase activity. We also showed that PAK5 forms a tight complex with Raf-1 in the cell, but not A-Raf or B-Raf. Importantly, we also demonstrated that the association of Raf-1 with PAK5 targets a subpopulation of Raf-1 to mitochondria. These data indicate that PAK5 is a potent regulator of Raf-1 activity and may control Raf-1 dependent signaling at the mitochondria.
Raf-1; PAK5; ERK; mitochondria; kinase; phosphorylation
Protein kinases are versatile signaling molecules that are involved in the regulation most physiological responses. The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) can be activated directly by the small GTPases Rac and Cdc42 and are among the best characterized downstream effectors of these Rho proteins. The structure, substrate specificity and functional role of PAKS are evolutionarily conserved from protozoa to mammals. Vertebrate PAKs are particularly important for cytoskeletal remodeling and focal adhesion assembly, thereby contributing to dynamic processes such as cell migration and synaptic plasticity. This issue of Cellular Logistics focuses on the PAK family of kinases, with ten reviews written by researchers currently working in the field. Here in this introductory overview we highlight some of the most interesting recent discoveries regarding PAK biochemistry and biology. The reviews in this issue cover a range of topics including the atomic structures of PAK1 and PAK4, their role in animals as assessed by knockout studies, and how PAKs are likely to contribute to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. The promise remains that PAK inhibitors will emerge that validate current pre-clinical studies suggesting that blocking PAK activity will positively contribute to human health.
The mechanisms through which the small GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42 regulate the formation of membrane ruffles, lamellipodia, and filopodia are currently unknown. The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are direct targets of active Rac and Cdc42 which can induce the assembly of polarized cytoskeletal structures when expressed in fibroblasts, suggesting that they may play a role in mediating the effects of these GTPases on cytoskeletal dynamics.
We have examined the subcellular localization of endogenous PAK1 in fibroblast cell lines using specific PAK1 antibodies. PAK1 is detected in submembranous vesicles in both unstimulated and stimulated fibroblasts that colocalize with a marker for fluid-phase uptake. In cells stimulated with PDGF, in v-Src–transformed fibroblasts, and in wounded cells, PAK1 redistributed into dorsal and membrane ruffles and into the edges of lamellipodia, where it colocalizes with polymerized actin. PAK1 was also colocalized with F-actin in membrane ruffles extended as a response to constitutive activation of Rac1. PAK1 appears to precede F-actin in translocating to cytoskeletal structures formed at the cell periphery. The association of PAK1 with the actin cytoskeleton is prevented by the actin filament-disrupting agent cytochalasin D and by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor wortmannin. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrate an in vivo interaction of PAK1 with filamentous (F)-actin in stimulated cells. Microinjection of a constitutively active PAK1 mutant into Rat-1 fibroblasts overexpressing the insulin receptor (HIRcB cells) induced the formation of F-actin- and PAK1-containing structures reminiscent of dorsal ruffles. These data indicate a close correlation between the subcellular distribution of endogenous PAK1 and the formation of Rac/Cdc42-dependent cytoskeletal structures and support an active role for PAK1 in regulating cortical actin rearrangements.
Elevated permeability of the endothelium is thought to be crucial in atherogenesis because it allows circulating lipoproteins to access subendothelial monocytes. Both local hemodynamics and cytokines may govern endothelial permeability in atherosclerotic plaque. We recently found that p21-activated kinase (PAK) regulates endothelial permeability. We now report that onset of fluid flow, atherogenic flow profiles, oxidized LDL, and proatherosclerotic cytokines all stimulate PAK phosphorylation and recruitment to cell–cell junctions. Activation of PAK is higher in cells plated on fibronectin (FN) compared to basement membrane proteins in all cases. In vivo, PAK is activated in atherosclerosis-prone regions of arteries and correlates with FN in the subendothelium. Inhibiting PAK in vivo reduces permeability in atherosclerosis-prone regions. Matrix-specific PAK activation therefore mediates elevated vascular permeability in atherogenesis.
p21-activated kinases (Paks) are prominent mediators of Rac/Cdc42-dependent and -independent signaling and regulate signal transduction and cytoskeletal-based cell movements. We used the reproducible migrations of the Caenorhabditis elegans gonadal distal tip cells to show that two of the three nematode Pak proteins, MAX-2 and PAK-1, function redundantly in regulation of cell migration but are regulated by very different mechanisms. First, we suggest that MAX-2 requires CED-10/Rac function and thus functions canonically. Second, PIX-1 and GIT-1 function in the same role as PAK-1, and PAK-1 interaction with PIX-1 is required for PAK-1 activity; thus, PAK-1 functions noncanonically. The human Pak-Pix-Git complex is central to noncanonical Pak signaling and requires only modest Rac/CDC-42 input. Unlike the human complex, our results suggest that the C. elegans Pak-Pix-Git complex requires PAK-1 kinase domain activity. This study delineates signaling network relationships in this cell migration model, thus providing potential further mechanistic insights and an assessment of total Pak contribution to cell migration events.
RhoG; Dock180; ELMO; MIG-2; RAC-2; PAK-2
This article presents a novel mechanism deployed by cells to tune cell adhesion levels through the autoinhibitory regulation of integrin adhesion involving the activation of PAK4.
Cell-to-extracellular matrix adhesion is regulated by a multitude of pathways initiated distally to the core cell–matrix adhesion machinery, such as via growth factor signaling. In contrast to these extrinsically sourced pathways, we now identify a regulatory pathway that is intrinsic to the core adhesion machinery, providing an internal regulatory feedback loop to fine tune adhesion levels. This autoinhibitory negative feedback loop is initiated by cell adhesion to vitronectin, leading to PAK4 activation, which in turn limits total cell–vitronectin adhesion strength. Specifically, we show that PAK4 is activated by cell attachment to vitronectin as mediated by PAK4 binding partner integrin αvβ5, and that active PAK4 induces accelerated integrin αvβ5 turnover within adhesion complexes. Accelerated integrin turnover is associated with additional PAK4-mediated effects, including inhibited integrin αvβ5 clustering, reduced integrin to F-actin connectivity and perturbed adhesion complex maturation. These specific outcomes are ultimately associated with reduced cell adhesion strength and increased cell motility. We thus demonstrate a novel mechanism deployed by cells to tune cell adhesion levels through the autoinhibitory regulation of integrin adhesion.
INTRODUCTION: P21-activated kinase 4 (PAK), a subfamily of serine/threonine kinases originally known as a regulator of cytoskeletal dynamics and cell motility, has recently been revealed to play a key role in oncogenic signaling pathways. We studied the frequency and clinical features of PAK4-overexpressed metastatic gastric cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS: PAK4 overexpression was screened by Western blot in 18 human gastric cancer cell lines. Immunohistochemical staining of PAK4 protein was performed in tumor specimens of 49 metastatic gastric cancer patients who received palliative capecitabine/cisplatin as first-line treatment. RESULTS: PAK4 protein overexpression was detected strongly in five gastric cell lines (AGS, MGK-28, MKN-74, SNU-216, SNU-601) and weakly in four cell lines (KATOIII, MKN-1, SNU-620, and SNU-719). PAK4 knockdown by small interfering RNA induced apoptosis in PAK4-overexpressed AGS gastric cancer cells. Immunohistochemical staining revealed PAK4 overexpressions in 4 (8.1%) of 49 metastatic gastric cancer specimens. None of the four patients with PAK4(+) responded to capecitabine/cisplatin chemotherapy, and PAK4(+) gastric cancer patients had a trend of poorer survival compared with PAK(-)(P = .876). CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated PAK4 overexpression in a subset of gastric cancer patients, implicating a role in gastric cancer tumorigenesis. Its prognostic significance and efficacy as a drug target should be further studied.
The process of macropinocytosis is an essential aspect of normal
cell function, contributing to both growth and motile processes of
cells. p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are targets for activated Rac and
Cdc42 guanosine 5′-triphosphatases and have been shown to regulate the
actin-myosin cytoskeleton. In fibroblasts PAK1 localizes to areas of
membrane ruffling, as well as to amiloride-sensitive pinocytic
vesicles. Expression of a PAK1 kinase autoinhibitory domain blocked
both platelet-derived growth factor- and RacQ61L-stimulated
uptake of 70-kDa dextran particles, whereas an inactive version of this
domain did not, indicating that PAK kinase activity is required for
normal growth factor-induced macropinocytosis. The mechanisms by which
PAK modulate macropinocytosis were examined in NIH3T3 cell lines
expressing various PAK1 constructs under the control of a
tetracycline-responsive transactivator. Cells expressing PAK1
(H83,86L), a mutant that dramatically stimulates formation of dorsal
membrane ruffles, exhibited increased macropinocytic uptake of 70-kDa
dextran particles in the absence of additional stimulation. This effect
was not antagonized by coexpression of dominant-negative Rac1-T17N. In
the presence of platelet-derived growth factor, both PAK1 (H83,86L) and
a highly kinase active PAK1 (T423E) mutant dramatically enhanced the
uptake of 70-kDa dextran. Neither wild-type PAK1 nor vector controls
exhibited enhanced macropinocytosis, nor did PAK1 (H83,86L) affect
clathrin-dependent endocytic mechanisms. Active versions of PAK1
enhanced both growth factor-stimulated 70-kDa dextran uptake and
efflux, suggesting that PAK1 activity modulated pinocytic vesicle
cycling. These data indicate that PAK1 plays an important regulatory
role in the process of macropinocytosis, perhaps related to the
requirement for PAK in directed cell motility.
Transformation of a normal cell to a cancer cell is caused by mutations in genes that regulate proliferation, apoptosis, and invasion. Small GTPases such as Ras, Rho, Rac and Cdc42 orchestrate many of the signals that are required for malignant transformation. The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are effectors of Rac and Cdc42. PAKs are a family of serine/threonine protein kinases comprised of six isoforms (PAK1–6), and they play important roles in cytoskeletal dynamics, cell survival and proliferation. They act as key signal transducers in several cancer signaling pathways, including Ras, Raf, NFκB, Akt, Bad and p53. Although PAKs are not mutated in cancers, they are overexpressed, hyperactivated or amplified in several human tumors and their role in cell transformation make them attractive therapeutic targets. This review discusses the evidence that PAK is important for cell transformation and some key signaling pathways it regulates. This review primarily discusses Group I PAKs (PAK1, PAK2 and PAK3) as Group II PAKs (PAK4, PAK5 and PAK6) are discussed elsewhere in this issue (by Minden).
cancer; amplification; PAK; p21 activated kinase; Rac; CDC42; protein kinase
Importance of the field
P21-activated kinases (PAKs) are involved in multiple signal transduction pathways in mammalian cells. PAKs, and PAK1 in particular, play a role in such disorders as cancer, mental retardation and allergy. Cell motility, survival and proliferation, the organization and function of cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix, transcription and translation are among the processes affected by PAK1.
Areas covered in this review
We discuss the mechanisms that control PAK1 activity; its involvement in physiological and pathophysiological processes; the benefits and the drawbacks of the current tools to regulate PAK1 activity; the evidences that point to PAK1 as a therapeutic target; and the likely directions of future research.
What the reader will gain
The reader will gain a better knowledge and understanding of the areas covered in this review.
PAK1 is a promising therapeutic target in cancer and allergen-induced disorders. Its suitability as a target in vascular, neurological and infectious diseases remains ambiguous. Further advancement of this field requires progress on such issues as the development of specific and clinically acceptable inhibitors, the choice between targeting one or multiple PAK isoforms, elucidation of the individual roles of PAK1 targets and the mechanisms that may circumvent inhibition of PAK1.
angiogenesis; cancer; p21-activated kinases; Rho GTPases; signal transduction; allergy
p21-activated kinases (Paks) have been identified in a variety of eukaryotic cells as key effectors of the Cdc42 family of guanosine triphosphatases. Pak kinases play important roles in regulating the filamentous actin cytoskeleton. In this study, we describe a function for the Schizosaccharomyces pombe Pak-related protein Pak1p/Orb2p in cytokinesis. Pak1p localizes to the actomyosin ring during mitosis and cytokinesis. Loss of Pak1p function leads to accelerated cytokinesis. Pak1p mediates phosphorylation of myosin II regulatory light chain Rlc1p at serine residues 35 and 36 in vivo. Interestingly, loss of Pak1p function or substitution of serine 35 and serine 36 of Rlc1p with alanines, thereby mimicking a dephosphorylated state of Rlc1p, leads to defective coordination of mitosis and cytokinesis. This study reveals a new mechanism involving Pak1p kinase that helps ensure the fidelity of cytokinesis.
Extracellular signal-Regulated Kinase (ERK) controls a variety of cellular processes, including cell proliferation and cell motility. While oncogenic mutations in Ras and B-Raf result in deregulated ERK activity and proliferation and migration in some tumor cells, other tumors exhibit elevated ERK signaling in the absence of these mutations. Here we provide evidence that PAK can directly activate MEK1 by a mechanism distinct from conventional Ras/Raf mediated activation. We find that PAK phosphorylation of MEK1 serine 298 stimulates MEK1 autophosphorylation on the activation loop, and activation of MEK1 activity towards ERK in in vitro reconstitution experiments. Serines 218 and/or 222 in the MEK1 activation loop are required for PAK-stimulated MEK1 activity towards ERK. MEK2, which is a poor target for PAK phosphorylation in cells, is not activated in this manner. Tissue culture experiments verify that this mechanism is used in suspended fibroblasts expressing mutationally activated PAK1. We speculate that aberrant signaling through PAK may directly induce anchorage-independent MEK1 activation in tumor cells lacking oncogenic Ras or Raf mutations, and that this mechanism may contribute to localized MEK signaling in focal contacts and adhesions during cell adhesion or migration.
Adhesion; PAK; MEK; ERK; Raf-1; Phosphorylation; Signaling
The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are signaling nodes that play a crucial role in cellular processes including cell motility, differentiation, survival, gene transcription and hormone signaling. PAKs are highly conserved family of serine threonine kinases that act as effector for small GTPases Rac and Cdc42. Most of our knowledge about PAK functions has been derived from genetic approaches in lower organisms and many of these functions are similar to that seen in mammalian cells. In this review, we have summarized the extensive information generated in lower eukaryotes and very briefly discussed the current status of PAKs in humans.
Continuous adhesion formation and disassembly (adhesion turnover) in the protrusions of migrating cells is regulated by unclear mechanisms. We show that p21-activated kinase (PAK)–induced phosphorylation of serine 273 in paxillin is a critical regulator of this turnover. Paxillin-S273 phosphorylation dramatically increases migration, protrusion, and adhesion turnover by increasing paxillin–GIT1 binding and promoting the localization of a GIT1–PIX–PAK signaling module near the leading edge. Mutants that interfere with the formation of this ternary module abrogate the effects of paxillin-S273 phosphorylation. PAK-dependent paxillin-S273 phosphorylation functions in a positive-feedback loop, as active PAK, active Rac, and myosin II activity are all downstream effectors of this turnover pathway. Finally, our studies led us to identify in highly motile cells a class of small adhesions that reside near the leading edge, turnover in 20–30 s, and resemble those seen with paxillin-S273 phosphorylation. These adhesions appear to be regulated by the GIT1–PIX–PAK module near the leading edge.
Pak kinases are thought to play critical roles in cell migration and invasion. Here, we analyze the roles of Pak1 and Pak2 in breast carcinoma cell invasion using the transient transfection of small interfering RNA. We find that although both Pak1 and Pak2 contribute to breast carcinoma invasion stimulated by heregulin, these roles are mediated by distinct signaling mechanisms. Thus, whereas the depletion of Pak1 interferes with the heregulin-mediated dephosphorylation of cofilin, the depletion of Pak2 does not. The depletion of Pak1 also has a stronger inhibitory effect on lamellipodial protrusion than does the depletion of Pak2. Interestingly, Pak1 and Pak2 play opposite roles in regulating the phosphorylation of the myosin light chain (MLC). Whereas the depletion of Pak1 decreases phospho-MLC levels in heregulin-stimulated cells, the depletion of Pak2 enhances MLC phosphorylation. Consistent with their opposite effects on MLC phosphorylation, Pak1 and Pak2 differentially modulate focal adhesions. Pak2-depleted cells display an increase in focal adhesion size, whereas in Pak1-depleted cells, focal adhesions fail to mature. We also found that the depletion of Pak2, but not Pak1, enhances RhoA activity and that the inhibition of RhoA signaling in Pak2-depleted cells decreases MLC phosphorylation and restores cell invasion. In summary, this work presents the first comprehensive analysis of functional differences between the Pak1 and Pak2 isoforms.
Developmental cognitive deficits including X-linked mental retardation (XLMR) can be caused by mutations in P21-activated kinase 3 (PAK3) that disrupt actin dynamics in dendritic spines. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease (AD), where both PAK1 and PAK3 are dysregulated, may share final common pathways with XLMR. Independent of familial mutation, cognitive deficits emerging with aging, notably AD, begin after decades of normal function. This prolonged prodromal period involves the buildup of amyloid-β (Aβ) extracellular plaques and intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles (NFT). Subsequently region dependent deficits in synapses, dendritic spines and cognition coincide with dysregulation in PAK1 and PAK. Specifically proximal to decline, cytoplasmic levels of actin-regulating Rho GTPase and PAK1 kinase are decreased in moderate to severe AD, while aberrant activation and translocation of PAK1 appears around the onset of cognitive deficits. Downstream to PAK1, LIM kinase inactivates cofilin, contributing to cofilin pathology, while the activation of Rho-dependent kinase ROCK increases Aβ production. Aβ activation of fyn disrupts neuronal PAK1 and ROCK-mediated signaling, resulting in synaptic deficits. Reductions in PAK1 by the anti-amyloid compound curcumin suppress synaptotoxicity. Similarly other neurological disorders, including Huntington disease (HD) show dysregulation of PAKs. PAK1 modulates mutant huntingtin toxicity by enhancing huntingtin aggregation, and inhibition of PAK activity protects HD as well as fragile X syndrome (FXS) symptoms. Since PAK plays critical roles in learning and memory and is disrupted in many cognitive disorders, targeting PAK signaling in AD, HD and XLMR may be a novel common therapeutic target for AD, HD and XLMR.
Alzheimer disease; curcumin; PAK; ROCK; signaling pathways; synapses
PAKs 4, 5 and 6 are members of the group B family of p21-activated kinases. Among this group, PAK4 has been most extensively studied. While it has essential roles in embryonic development, in adults high levels of PAK4 are frequently associated with cancer. PAK4 is overexpressed in a variety of cancers, and the Pak4 gene is amplified in some cancers. PAK4 overexpression is sufficient to cause oncogenic transformation in cells and in mouse models. The tight connection between PAK4 and cancer make it a promising diagnostic tool as well as a potential drug target. The group B PAKs also have important developmental functions. PAK4 is important for many early developmental processes, while PAK5 and PAK6 play roles in learning and memory in mice. This chapter provides an overview of the roles of the group B PAKs in cancer as well as development, and includes a discussion of PAK mediated signaling pathways and cellular functions.
PAK4; group B PAKs; signal transduction; development; cancer