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J Biol Chem. 2009 Sep 11;284(37):24825-39. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.015362. Epub 2009 Jun 22.

Epac activates the small G proteins Rap1 and Rab3A to achieve exocytosis.

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Laboratorio de Biología Celular y Molecular, Instituto de Histología y Embriología-Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas, CC 56, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, 5500 Mendoza, Argentina.


Exocytosis of the acrosome (the acrosome reaction) relies on cAMP production, assembly of a proteinaceous fusion machinery, calcium influx from the extracellular medium, and mobilization from inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate-sensitive intracellular stores. Addition of cAMP to human sperm suspensions bypasses some of these requirements and elicits exocytosis in a protein kinase A- and extracellular calcium-independent manner. The relevant cAMP target is Epac, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the small GTPase Rap. We show here that a soluble adenylyl cyclase synthesizes the cAMP required for the acrosome reaction. Epac stimulates the exchange of GDP for GTP on Rap1, upstream of a phospholipase C. The Epac-selective cAMP analogue 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP induces a phospholipase C-dependent calcium mobilization in human sperm suspensions. In addition, our studies identify a novel connection between cAMP and Rab3A, a secretory granule-associated protein, revealing that the latter functions downstream of soluble adenylyl cyclase/cAMP/Epac but not of Rap1. Challenging sperm with calcium or 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP boosts the exchange of GDP for GTP on Rab3A. Recombinant Epac does not release GDP from Rab3A in vitro, suggesting that the Rab3A-GEF activation by cAMP/Epac in vivo is indirect. We propose that Epac sits at a critical point during the exocytotic cascade after which the pathway splits into two limbs, one that assembles the fusion machinery into place and another that elicits intracellular calcium release.

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