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Mol Cell. 2003 Nov;12(5):1275-85.

Phosphorylation-dependent paxillin-ERK association mediates hepatocyte growth factor-stimulated epithelial morphogenesis.

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Section of Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Activation of the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) receptor c-met results in the regulation of cell-matrix interactions, including the MAPK-dependent stimulation of epithelial cell morphogenesis. In the present study we demonstrate that HGF stimulates the localization of ERK to sites of cell-matrix interactions and that this is mediated by the tyrosine phosphorylation-dependent association of inactive ERK and the focal adhesion complex protein paxillin. In addition, paxillin was found to associate with the upstream MAP kinases Raf and MEK, resulting in a complex that can mediate localized ERK activation. Mutation of the ERK binding site in paxillin prevented HGF-stimulated ERK-paxillin association and eliminated HGF-induced cell spreading and branching process formation. These experiments reveal that paxillin-dependent ERK activation at sites of cell-matrix interaction is critical for HGF-stimulated epithelial morphogenesis.

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