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Cell Cycle. 2004 Jul;3(7):861-4. Epub 2004 Jul 26.

Cdc42p, GTP hydrolysis, and the cell's sense of direction.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The GTPase Cdc42p is essential for polarity establishment in animals and fungi.(1) Human Cdc42p can functionally replace yeast Cdc42p,(2) indicating a high degree of evolutionary conservation. Current models of Cdc42p action generally follow the signaling paradigm established for Ras, in which receptors responding to an initiating stimulus cause guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) to trigger GTP-loading of Ras, leading to engagement of downstream effectors and ensuing cell proliferation. Key support for the Ras paradigm came from the finding that oncogenic forms of Ras, unable to hydrolyze GTP and therefore constitutively GTP-bound, mimicked the effect of constitutive signaling by the upstream receptors even in the absence of stimuli. Attempts to assess whether or not this paradigm is valid for Cdc42p-induced polarization of yeast cells have yielded conflicting results.(3-6) Here, we discuss the available information on this issue and conclude that unlike Ras signaling, Cdc42p directed polarity establishment additionally requires cycling between GTP- and GDP-bound forms. We suggest that such cycling is critical for a little-studied "function" of Cdc42p: its ability to designate a unique portion of the cell cortex to become the polarization site, and to become concentrated at that site.

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