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J Biol Chem. 1999 Jul 23;274(30):21430-6.

Polarized distribution of endogenous Rac1 and RhoA at the cell surface.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75235-9039, USA.


Rac1 and RhoA regulate membrane ruffling and stress fiber formation. Both molecules appear to exert their control from the plasma membrane. In fibroblasts stimulated with platelet-derived growth factor or lysophosphatidic acid, the reorganization of the cytoskeleton begins at specific sites on the cell surface. We now report that endogenous Rac1 and RhoA also have a polarized distribution at the cell surface. Cell fractionation and immunogold labeling show that in quiescent fibroblasts both of these molecules are concentrated in caveolae, which are plasma membrane domains that are associated with actin-rich regions of the cell. Treatment of these cells with platelet-derived growth factor stimulated the recruitment of additional Rac1 and RhoA to caveolae fractions, while lysophosphatidic acid only caused the recruitment of RhoA. We could reconstitute the recruitment of RhoA using either whole cell lysates or purified caveolae. Surprisingly, pretreatment of the lysates with exoenzyme C3 shifted both resident and recruited RhoA from caveolae to noncaveolae membranes. The shift in location was not caused by inactivation of the RhoA effector domain. Moreover, chimeric proteins containing the C-terminal consensus site for Rac1 and RhoA prenylation were constitutively targeted to caveolae fractions. These results suggest that the polarized distribution of Rho family proteins at the cell surface involves an initial targeting of the protein to caveolae and a mechanism for retaining it at this site.

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