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Dev Biol. 2003 Jul 15;259(2):318-35.

Distinct functions of Rho and Rac are required for convergent extension during Xenopus gastrulation.

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Department of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


We have undertaken the first detailed analysis of Rho GTPase function during vertebrate development by analyzing how RhoA and Rac1 control convergent extension of axial mesoderm during Xenopus gastrulation. Monitoring of a number of parameters in time-lapse recordings of mesoderm explants revealed that Rac and Rho have both distinct and overlapping roles in regulating the motility of axial mesoderm cells. The cell behaviors revealed by activated or inhibitory versions of these GTPases in native tissue were clearly distinct from those previously documented in cultured fibroblasts. The dynamic properties and polarity of protrusive activity, along with lamellipodia formation, were controlled by the two GTPases operating in a partially redundant manner, while Rho and Rac contributed separately to cell shape and filopodia formation. We propose that Rho and Rac operate in distinct signaling pathways that are integrated to control cell motility during convergent extension.

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