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J Biol Chem. 2006 Feb 10;281(6):3210-6. Epub 2005 Dec 8.

Rac1 modulates sphingosine 1-phosphate-mediated activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt signaling pathways in vascular endothelial cells.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a platelet-derived sphingolipid that activates G protein-coupled S1P receptors and initiates a broad range of responses in vascular endothelial cells. The small GTPase Rac1 is implicated in diverse S1P-modulated cellular responses in endothelial cells, yet the molecular mechanisms involved in S1P-mediated Rac1 activation are incompletely understood. We studied the pathways involved in S1P-mediated Rac1 activation in bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC) and found that S1P-induced Rac1 activation is impaired following chelation of G protein betagamma subunits by transfection of betaARKct. Treatment with the Src tyrosine kinase inhibitor PP2 completely attenuated S1P-mediated Rac1 activation; however, pretreatment of BAEC with wortmannin, an inhibitor of phosphoinositide (PI) 3-kinase, had no effect on Rac1 activation while completely blocking S1P-induced Akt phosphorylation. We used Rac1-specific small interfering RNA (siRNA) duplexes to "knock down" endogenous Rac1 expression and found that siRNA-mediated Rac1 knockdown significantly impaired basal as well as S1P-induced phosphorylation of protein kinase Akt, as well as several downstream targets of Akt including endothelial nitric-oxide synthase and glycogen synthase kinase 3beta. By contrast, S1P-induced phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases ERK1/2 was unperturbed by siRNA-mediated Rac1 knockdown. We found that overexpression of the Rac1 guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) Tiam1 markedly enhanced Rac1 activity, whereas a dominant negative Tiam1 mutant significantly attenuated S1P-mediated Rac1 activation. Taken together, these studies identify G protein betagamma subunits, Src kinase and the GEF Tiam1 as upstream modulators of S1P-mediated Rac1 activation, and establish a central role for Rac1 in S1P-mediated activation of PI 3-kinase/Akt/endothelial nitric-oxide synthase signaling in vascular endothelial cells.

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