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Cancer Res. 1999 Apr 15;59(8):2004-10.

Overexpression of small GTP-binding protein RhoA promotes invasion of tumor cells.

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Department of Tumor Biology, Osaka Medical Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, Japan.


Adhesion of tumor cells to host cell layers and subsequent migration are pivotal steps in cancer invasion and metastasis. The small GTP-binding protein RhoA controls cell adhesion and motility through organization of the actin cytoskeleton and regulation of actomyosin contractility. Cultured rat MM1 hepatoma cells migrate through a mesothelial cell monolayer in vitro in a serum-dependent, RhoA-mediated manner (K. Yoshioka et al., J. Biol. Chem., 273: 5146-5154, 1998). Furthermore, the ROCK family of RhoA-associated serine-threonine protein kinases is involved in this migration, and an inhibitor for these kinases effectively inhibits the invasion of MM1 cells in vitro and in vivo (K. Itoh et al., Nat. Med., 5: 221-225, 1999). Although there have been no reports of genetic alterations directly affecting RhoA in human cancer, the expression level of RhoA in tumors has been several times higher than that of surrounding normal tissue; RhoA was especially highly expressed in the metastatic region. To determine whether RhoA is activated by its overexpression, we made stable transfectants of MM1 cells expressing various levels of wild-type human RhoA. These transfectants showed promoted invasive ability in vitro in the absence and presence of 1-oleoyl-lysophosphatidic acid, marked adherence to the plastic culture dish with scattered shape, elevated phosphorylation of Mr 20,000 myosin light chain, and translocation of RhoA protein from the cytosol to the membrane. All of these phenotypes were similar to those of active RhoA transfectants, correlated with the expression level of RhoA and reversed by the treatment of the cells with Clostridium botulinum exoenzyme C3 ADP-ribosyltransferase. In addition, overexpression of wild-type RhoA in MM1 cells also conferred invasive ability in vivo after the cells were transplanted into the syngeneic rats. Thus, high expression of RhoA in the cell facilitates the translocation of this protein to the membrane, where it is activated, resulting in the stimulation of the RhoA-ROCK-actomyosin system, leading to invasion.

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