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J Biol Chem. 1999 May 14;274(20):14359-67.

Evidence for a calpeptin-sensitive protein-tyrosine phosphatase upstream of the small GTPase Rho. A novel role for the calpain inhibitor calpeptin in the inhibition of protein-tyrosine phosphatases.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7090, USA.


Activation of the thiol protease calpain results in proteolysis of focal adhesion-associated proteins and severing of cytoskeletal-integrin links. We employed a commonly used inhibitor of calpain, calpeptin, to examine a role for this protease in the reorganization of the cytoskeleton under a variety of conditions. Calpeptin induced stress fiber formation in both forskolin-treated REF-52 fibroblasts and serum-starved Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts. Surprisingly, calpeptin was the only calpain inhibitor of several tested with the ability to induce these effects, suggesting that calpeptin may act on targets besides calpain. Here we show that calpeptin inhibits tyrosine phosphatases, enhancing tyrosine phosphorylation particularly of paxillin. Calpeptin preferentially inhibits membrane-associated phosphatase activity. Consistent with this observation, in vitro phosphatase assays using purified glutathione S-transferase fusion proteins demonstrated a preference for the transmembrane protein-tyrosine phosphatase-alpha over the cytosolic protein-tyrosine phosphatase-1B. Furthermore, unlike wide spectrum inhibitors of tyrosine phosphatases such as pervanadate, calpeptin appeared to inhibit a subset of phosphatases. Calpeptin-induced assembly of stress fibers was inhibited by botulinum toxin C3, indicating that calpeptin is acting on a phosphatase upstream of the small GTPase Rho, a protein that controls stress fiber and focal adhesion assembly. Not only does this work reveal that calpeptin is an inhibitor of protein-tyrosine phosphatases, but it suggests that calpeptin will be a valuable tool to identify the phosphatase activity upstream of Rho.

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