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Oncogene. 2000 May 11;19(20):2377-85.

Extinction of rac1 and Cdc42Hs signalling defines a novel p53-dependent apoptotic pathway.

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Institut de Génétique Moléculaire, CNRS UMR5535, IFR 24, 1919 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France.


Apoptosis is a normal physiological process which eliminates cells that do not receive adequate extracellular signals. One of the pathways signalling apoptosis is controlled by the small GTPases of the Rho family, also involved in cell proliferation, differentiation and motility. Another major apoptosis signalling pathway involves the p53 tumour suppressor which is activated by a variety of stress and mediates growth arrest or apoptosis in normal cells. We show here that upon detachment from the extracellular matrix, fibroblasts undergo rapid apoptosis that can be rescued by constitutive activation of Rac1 and Cdc42Hs GTPases. Conversely, inhibition of Rac1 and Cdc42Hs efficiently triggers apoptosis in adherent cells. Interestingly, apoptosis is not observed in p53-/- cells either cultured in suspension or inhibited for Rac1 and Cdc42Hs activity. Moreover, Rac1 and Cdc42Hs extinction in normal cells activates endogenous p53. Using specific inhibitors of MAPK pathways, we demonstrate that, in our experimental system, p38 signals survival, while ERK activity is required for apoptosis. Our data constitute the first demonstration that Rac1 and Cdc42Hs control pathways that require simultaneous signalling through MAPK ERK and p53 to induce apoptosis.

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