Genetic deletion of Rac1 GTPase reveals its critical role in actin stress fiber formation and focal adhesion complex assembly

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Journal of Biological Chemistry (Impact Factor: 4.6). 08/2006; 281(27):18652-9. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M603508200
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Rac1 is an intracellular signal transducer regulating a variety of cell functions. Previous studies by overexpression of dominant-negative or constitutively active mutants of Rac1 in clonal cell lines have established that Rac1 plays a key role in actin lamellipodia induction, cell-matrix adhesion, and cell anoikis. In the present studies, we have examined the cellular behaviors of Rac1 gene-targeted primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) after Cre recombinase-mediated deletion of Rac1 gene. Rac1-null MEFs became contracted and elongated in morphology and were defective in lamellipodia formation, cell spreading, cell-fibronectin adhesion, and focal contact formation in response to platelet-derived growth factor or serum. Unexpectedly, deletion of Rac1 also abolished actin stress fibers in the cells without detectable alteration of endogenous RhoA activity. Although the expression and/or activation status of focal adhesion complex components such as Src, FAK, and vinculin were not affected by Rac1 deletion, the number and size of adhesion plaques were significantly reduced, and the molecular complex between Src, FAK, and vinculin was dissembled in Rac1-null cells. Overexpression of an active RhoA mutant or ROK failed to rescue the stress fiber and adhesion plaque defects of the Rac1-null cells. Although Rac1 deletion caused a significant reduction in phospho-PAK1, -AKT, and -ERK under serum stimulation, reconstitution of active PAK1, but not AKT or MEK1, was able to rescue the actin cytoskeleton and adhesion phenotypes of the Rac1-deficient cells. Furthermore, Rac1 deletion led to a marked increase in spontaneous apoptosis that could be rescued by active PAK1, AKT, or MEK1 expression. Our results obtained from gene-targeted primary MEFs indicate that Rac1 is essential not only for lamellipodia induction but also for the RhoA-regulated actin stress fiber and focal adhesion complex formation and that Rac1 is involved in cell survival regulation through anoikis-dependent as well as -independent mechanisms.

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yi Zheng