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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2005 Feb;288(2):C350-9. Epub 2004 Oct 20.

MEK1 restores migration of polyamine-depleted cells by retention and activation of Rac1 in the cytoplasm.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38163, USA.


We previously showed that polyamines are required for proliferation and migration both in vivo and in a cultured intestinal epithelial cell (IEC-6) model. Wounding of the IEC-6 monolayer induced transient ERK activation, which was further enhanced by EGF. EGF stimulated migration in control and polyamine-depleted cells, but the degree of stimulation was significantly less in polyamine-depleted cells. Inhibition of MEK1 inhibited basal as well as EGF-induced ERK activation and migration. Expression of constitutively active (CA)-MEK and dominant-negative (DN)-MEK had significant effects on F-actin structure. CA-MEK increased stress fiber and lamellipodia formation, while DN-MEK showed loss of stress fibers and abnormal actin cytoskeletal structure. Unlike EGF, CA-MEK significantly increased migration of both control and polyamine-depleted cells. The most important and significant finding in this study was that polyamine depletion caused localization of Rac1 and RhoA to the nuclear as well as perinuclear regions. Interestingly, CA-MEK completely reversed the subcellular distribution of Rac1 and RhoA proteins in polyamine-depleted cells. Polyamine depletion increased Rac1 in the nuclear fraction and decreased it in the cytoplasmic and membrane fractions of vector-transfected cells. CA-MEK prevented accumulation of Rac1 in the nucleus. Polyamine depletion significantly decreased Rac1 activity during 6-h migration in vector-transfected cells. Cells transfected with CA-MEK had almost identical levels of activated Rac1 in all three groups. These results suggest that polyamine depletion prevents activation of Rac1 and RhoA by sequestering them to the nucleus and that expression of constitutively active MEK reverses this effect, creating the cellular localization required for activation.

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