Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells is regulated by a UNC-73/TRIO-MIG-2/RhoG signaling module and armadillo repeats of CED-12/ELMO.

Department of Microbiology, Beirne Carter Center for Immunology Research, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.
Current Biology (Impact Factor: 9.49). 01/2005; 14(24):2208-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.12.029
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Phagocytosis of cells undergoing apoptosis is essential during development, cellular turnover, and wound healing. Failure to promptly clear apoptotic cells has been linked to autoimmune disorders. C. elegans CED-12 and mammalian ELMO are evolutionarily conserved scaffolding proteins that play a critical role in engulfment from worm to human. ELMO functions together with Dock180 (a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Rac) to mediate Rac-dependent cytoskeletal reorganization during engulfment and cell migration. However, the components upstream of ELMO and Dock180 during engulfment remain elusive.
Here, we define a conserved signaling module involving the small GTPase RhoG and its exchange factor TRIO, which functions upstream of ELMO/Dock180/Rac during engulfment. Complementary studies in C. elegans show that MIG-2 (which we identify as the homolog of mammalian RhoG) and UNC-73 (the TRIO homolog) also regulate corpse clearance in vivo, upstream of CED-12. At the molecular level, we identify a novel set of evolutionarily conserved Armadillo (ARM) repeats within CED-12/ELMO that mediate an interaction with activated MIG-2/RhoG; this, in turn, promotes Dock180-mediated Rac activation and cytoskeletal reorganization.
The combination of in vitro and in vivo studies presented here identify two evolutionarily conserved players in engulfment, TRIO/UNC73 and RhoG/MIG-2, and the TRIO --> RhoG signaling module is linked by ELMO/CED-12 to Dock180-dependent Rac activation during engulfment. This work also identifies ARM repeats within CED-12/ELMO and their role in linking RhoG and Rac, two GTPases that function in tandem during engulfment.

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