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EMBO J. 2011 Feb 16;30(4):665-78. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2010.353. Epub 2011 Jan 14.

Cdc42-dependent formation of the ZO-1/MRCKβ complex at the leading edge controls cell migration.

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  • 1Division of Life Science, Molecular Neuroscience Center, State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Zonula occludens (ZO)-1 is a multi-domain scaffold protein known to have critical roles in the establishment of cell-cell adhesions and the maintenance of stable tissue structures through the targeting, anchoring, and clustering of transmembrane adhesion molecules and cytoskeletal proteins. Here, we report that ZO-1 directly binds to MRCKβ, a Cdc42 effector kinase that modulates cell protrusion and migration, at the leading edge of migrating cells. Structural studies reveal that the binding of a β hairpin from GRINL1A converts ZO-1 ZU5 into a complete ZU5-fold. A similar interaction mode is likely to occur between ZO-1 ZU5 and MRCKβ. The interaction between ZO-1 and MRCKβ requires the kinase to be primed by Cdc42 due to the closed conformation of the kinase. Formation of the ZO-1/MRCKβ complex enriches the kinase at the lamellae of migrating cells. Disruption of the ZO-1/MRCKβ complex inhibits MRCKβ-mediated cell migration. These results demonstrate that ZO-1, a classical scaffold protein with accepted roles in maintaining cell-cell adhesions in stable tissues, also has an active role in cell migration during processes such as tissue development and remodelling.

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