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J Cell Sci. 2009 Dec 15;122(Pt 24):4535-46. doi: 10.1242/jcs.053728. Epub 2009 Nov 24.

The Rho-family GEF Asef2 activates Rac to modulate adhesion and actin dynamics and thereby regulate cell migration.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA.


Asef2 is a recently identified Rho-family guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) that has been implicated in the modulation of actin, but its function in cell migration and adhesion dynamics is not well understood. In this study, we show that Asef2 is an important regulator of cell migration and adhesion assembly and disassembly (turnover). Asef2 localizes with actin at the leading edge of cells. Knockdown of endogenous Asef2 impairs migration and significantly slows the turnover of adhesions. Asef2 enhances both Rac1 and Cdc42 activity in HT1080 cells, but only Rac1 is crucial for the Asef2-promoted increase in migration and adhesion turnover. Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and the serine/threonine kinase Akt are also essential for the Asef2-mediated effects on migration and adhesion turnover. Consistent with this, Asef2 increases the amount of active Akt at the leading edge of cells. Asef2 signaling leads to an overall decrease in Rho activity, which is crucial for stimulating migration and adhesion dynamics. Thus, our results reveal an important new role for Asef2 in promoting cell migration and rapid adhesion turnover by coordinately regulating the activities of Rho-family GTPases.

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