Rho, nuclear actin, and actin-binding proteins in the regulation of transcription and gene expression
Actin cytoskeleton is one of the main targets of Rho GTPases, which act as molecular switches on many signaling pathways. During the past decade, actin has emerged as an important regulator of gene expression. Nuclear actin plays a key role in transcription, chromatin remodelling and pre-mRNA processing. In addition, the “status” of the actin cytoskeleton is used as a signaling intermediate by at least the MKL1-SRF and Hippo-pathways, which culminate in the transcriptional regulation of cytoskeletal and growth-promoting genes, respectively. Rho GTPases may therefore regulate gene expression by controlling either cytoplasmic or nuclear actin dynamics. Although the regulation of nuclear actin polymerization is still poorly understood, many actin-binding proteins, which are downstream effectors of Rho, are found in the nuclear compartment. In this review, we discuss the possible mechanisms and key proteins that may mediate the transcriptional regulation by Rho GTPases through actin.
Role of the Rho GTPase Rac in the activation of the phagocyte NADPH oxidase: Outsourcing a key task
The superoxide-generating NADPH oxidase of phagocytes consists of the membrane-associated cytochrome b558 (a heterodimer of Nox2 and p22phox) and 4 cytosolic components: p47phox, p67phox, p40phox, and the small GTPase, Rac, in complex with RhoGDI. Superoxide is produced by the NADPH-driven reduction of molecular oxygen, via a redox gradient located in Nox2. Electron flow in Nox2 is initiated by interaction with cytosolic components, which translocate to the membrane, p67phox playing the central role. The participation of Rac is expressed in the following sequence: (1) Translocation of the RacGDP-RhoGDI complex to the membrane; (2) Dissociation of RacGDP from RhoGDI; (3) GDP to GTP exchange on Rac, mediated by a guanine nucleotide exchange factor; (4) Binding of RacGTP to p67phox; (5) Induction of a conformational change in p67phox, promoting interaction with Nox2. The particular involvement of Rac in NADPH oxidase assembly serves as a paradigm for signaling by Rho GTPases, in general.
The Rac-specific exchange factors Dock1 and Dock5 are dispensable for the establishment of the glomerular filtration barrier in vivo
Podocytes are specialized kidney cells that form the kidney filtration barrier through the connection of their foot processes. Nephrin and Neph family transmembrane molecules at the surface of podocytes interconnect to form a unique type of cell-cell junction, the slit diaphragm, which acts as a molecular sieve. The cytoplasmic tails of Nephrin and Neph mediate cytoskeletal rearrangement that contributes to the maintenance of the filtration barrier. Nephrin and Neph1 orthologs are essential to regulate cell-cell adhesion and Rac-dependent actin rearrangement during Drosophila myoblast fusion. We hypothesized here that molecules regulating myoblast fusion in Drosophila could contribute to signaling downstream of Nephrin and Neph1 in podocytes. We found that Nephrin engagement promoted recruitment of the Rac exchange factor Dock1 to the membrane. Furthermore, Nephrin overexpression led to lamellipodia formation that could be blocked by inhibiting Rac1 activity. We generated in vivo mouse models to investigate whether Dock1 and Dock5 contribute to the formation and maintenance of the kidney filtration barrier. Our results indicate that while Dock1 and Dock5 are expressed in podocytes, their functions are not essential for the development of the glomerular filtration barrier. Furthermore, mice lacking Dock1 were not protected from LPS-induced podocyte effacement. Our data suggest that Dock1 and Dock5 are not the important exchange factors regulating Rac activity during the establishment and maintenance of the glomerular barrier.
IQGAP1 is a key node within the small GTPase network
Coordination of the activity of multiple small GTPases is required for the regulation of many physiological processes, including cell migration. There are now several examples of functional interplay between small GTPase pairs, but the mechanisms that control GTPase activity in time and space are only partially understood. Here, we build on the hypothesis that small GTPases are part of a large, integrated network and propose that key proteins within this network integrate multiple signaling events and coordinate multiple small GTPase activities. Specifically, we identify the scaffolding protein IQGAP1 as a master regulator of multiple small GTPases, including Cdc42, Rac1, Rap1 and RhoA. In addition, we demonstrate that IQGAP1 promotes Arf6 activation downstream of β1 integrin engagement. Furthermore, following literature-curated searches and recent mass spectrometric analysis of IQGAP1-binding partners, we report that IQGAP1 recruits other small GTPases, including RhoC, Rac2, M-Ras, RhoQ, Rab10 and Rab5, small GTPase regulators, including Tiam1, RacGAP1, srGAP2 and HERC1, and small GTPase effectors, including PAK6, N-WASP, several sub-units of the Arp2/3 complex and the formin mDia1. Therefore, we propose that IQGAP1 acts as a small GTPase scaffolding platform within the small GTPase network, and recruits and/or regulates small GTPases, small GTPase regulators and effectors to orchestrate cell behavior. Finally, to identify other putative key regulators of small GTPase cross-talk, we have assembled a small GTPase network using protein-protein interaction databases.
Multiple cytoskeletal pathways and PI3K signaling mediate CDC-42-induced neuronal protrusion in C. elegans
Rho GTPases are key regulators of cellular protrusion and are involved in many developmental events including axon guidance during nervous system development. Rho GTPase pathways display functional redundancy in developmental events, including axon guidance. Therefore, their roles can often be masked when using simple loss-of-function genetic approaches. As a complement to loss-of-function genetics, we constructed a constitutively activated CDC-42(G12V) expressed in C. elegans neurons. CDC-42(G12V) drove the formation of ectopic lamellipodial and filopodial protrusions in the PDE neurons, which resembled protrusions normally found on migrating growth cones of axons. We then used a candidate gene approach to identify molecules that mediate CDC-42(G12V)-induced ectopic protrusions by determining if loss of function of the genes could suppress CDC-42(G12V). Using this approach, we identified 3 cytoskeletal pathways previously implicated in axon guidance, the Arp2/3 complex, UNC-115/abLIM, and UNC-43/Ena. We also identified the Nck-interacting kinase MIG-15/NIK and p21-activated kinases (PAKs), also implicated in axon guidance. Finally, PI3K signaling was required, specifically the Rictor/mTORC2 branch but not the mTORC1 branch that has been implicated in other aspects of PI3K signaling including stress and aging. Our results indicate that multiple pathways can mediate CDC-42-induced neuronal protrusions that might be relevant to growth cone protrusions during axon pathfinding. Each of these pathways involves Rac GTPases, which might serve to integrate the pathways and coordinate the multiple CDC-42 pathways. These pathways might be relevant to developmental events such as axon pathfinding as well as disease states such as metastatic melanoma.
The Rho family of GTPases (members of the Ras superfamily) are best known for their roles in regulating cytoskeletal dynamics. It is also well established that misregulation of Rho proteins contributes to tumorigenesis and metastasis. Unlike Ras proteins, which are frequently mutated in cancer (around 30%), Rho proteins themselves are generally not found to be mutated in cancer. Rather, misregulation of Rho activity in cancer was thought to occur by overexpression of these proteins or by misregulation of molecules that control Rho activity, such as activation or overexpression of GEFs and inactivation or loss of GAPs or GDIs. Recent studies, enabled by next-generation tumor exome sequencing, report activating point mutations in Rho GTPases as driver mutations in melanoma, as well as breast, and head and neck cancers. The Rac1(P29L) mutation identified in these tumor studies was previously identified by our lab as an activating Rac mutation in C. elegans neuronal development, highlighting the conserved nature of this mutation. Furthermore, this finding supports the relevance of studying Rho GTPases in model organisms such as C. elegans to study the mechanisms that underlie carcinogenesis. This review will describe the recent findings that report activating Rho mutations in various cancer types, moving Rho GTPases from molecules misregulated in cancer to mutagenic targets that drive tumorigenesis.