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Dev Biol. 2002 Apr 15;244(2):342-57.

Xenopus Cdc42 regulates convergent extension movements during gastrulation through Wnt/Ca2+ signaling pathway.

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Division of Molecular and Life Sciences, Pohang University of Science and Technology, San 31 Hyoja Dong, Pohang, Kyungbuk, 790-784, Republic of Korea.


Rho GTPases are molecular switches that regulate many essential cellular processes, including actin dynamics, cell adhesion, cell-cycle progression, and transcription. We have isolated the Xenopus homolog of Rho GTPase Cdc42 and examined its potential role during gastrulation movements in early Xenopus embryos. XCdc42 is expressed in tissues undergoing extensive morphogenetic changes, such as the deep layers of involuting mesoderm and posterior neuroectoderm during gastrulation, and somitic mesoderm at neurula stages. Overexpression of either wild-type (WT) or dominant-negative (DN) XCdc42 interferes with convergent extension movements in intact embryos, activin-stimulated animal caps, and dorsal marginal zone explants. These effects occur without affecting mesodermal specification. Overexpression of WT or DN XCdc42 leads to the decrease and increase of cell adhesiveness of blastomeres, respectively, as demonstrated by the cell adhesion assay. In addition, when overexpressed, PKC-alpha, XWnt-5a, and Mfz-3 inhibit activin-induced convergent extension in animal cap explants. This inhibition can be rescued by coexpression of DN XCdc42, implying that XCdc42 acts downstream of the Wnt/Ca2+ signaling pathway involving PKC activation. XCdc42 also lies downstream of XWnt-5a in the regulation of Ca2+-dependent cell adhesion. Taken together, our results suggest that XCdc42 plays a role in the regulation of convergent extension movements during gastrulation through the protein kinase C-mediated Wnt/Ca2+ pathway.

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