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Blood. 2009 Jul 9;114(2):415-24. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-10-183582. Epub 2009 May 8.

Unraveling a novel Rac1-mediated signaling pathway that regulates cofilin dephosphorylation and secretion in thrombin-stimulated platelets.

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  • 1Institute for Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases, University of Munich, Munich, Germany.


In platelets stimulated by thrombin to secrete and aggregate, cofilin is rapidly dephosphorylated leading to its activation. Cofilin by severing existing actin filaments and stimulating F-actin polymerization on newly created barbed ends dynamizes the actin cytoskeleton. We previously found that cofilin dephosphorylation is Ca(2+)-dependent and occurs upstream of degranulation in stimulated platelets. We report now in thrombin-stimulated platelets that Rac1 and class II PAKs (PAK4/5/6) were rapidly (within 5 seconds) activated, whereas PAK1/2 (class I PAKs) phosphorylation was slower. The Rac1-specific inhibitor NSC23766 blocked phosphorylation of class II PAKs, but not PAK1/2. Moreover, inhibition of the Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent phosphatase calcineurin inhibited Rac1 activation and class II PAKs phosphorylation. Prevention of Rac1 activation by calcineurin inhibition or NSC23766 also blocked cofilin dephosphorylation and platelet granule secretion indicating that a calcineurin/Rac1/class II PAKs pathway regulates cofilin dephosphorylation leading to secretion. We further found that PI3-kinases were activated downstream of Rac1, but were not involved in regulating cofilin dephosphorylation and secretion in thrombin-stimulated platelets. Our study unravels a Ca(2+)-dependent pathway of secretion in stimulated platelets as a signaling pathway linking Rac1 activation to actin dynamics: calcineurin-->Rac1-->class II PAKs-->cofilin activation. We further demonstrate that this pathway is separate and independent of the protein kinase C (PKC) pathway mediating secretion.

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