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Nat Cell Biol. 2011 Feb;13(2):159-66. doi: 10.1038/ncb2156. Epub 2011 Jan 23.

Spatially restricted activation of RhoA signalling at epithelial junctions by p114RhoGEF drives junction formation and morphogenesis.

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Department of Cell Biology, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, Bath Street, London, UK.


Signalling by the GTPase RhoA, a key regulator of epithelial cell behaviour, can stimulate opposing processes: RhoA can promote junction formation and apical constriction, and reduce adhesion and cell spreading. Molecular mechanisms are thus required that ensure spatially restricted and process-specific RhoA activation. For many fundamental processes, including assembly of the epithelial junctional complex, such mechanisms are still unknown. Here we show that p114RhoGEF is a junction-associated protein that drives RhoA signalling at the junctional complex and regulates tight-junction assembly and epithelial morphogenesis. p114RhoGEF is required for RhoA activation at cell-cell junctions, and its depletion stimulates non-junctional Rho signalling and induction of myosin phosphorylation along the basal domain. Depletion of GEF-H1, a RhoA activator inhibited by junctional recruitment, does not reduce junction-associated RhoA activation. p114RhoGEF associates with a complex containing myosin II, Rock II and the junctional adaptor cingulin, indicating that p114RhoGEF is a component of a junction-associated Rho signalling module that drives spatially restricted activation of RhoA to regulate junction formation and epithelial morphogenesis.

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