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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 25;6(1):e16120. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016120.

The DOCK protein sponge binds to ELMO and functions in Drosophila embryonic CNS development.

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Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics, School of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America.


Cell morphogenesis, which requires rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton, is essential to coordinate the development of tissues such as the musculature and nervous system during normal embryonic development. One class of signaling proteins that regulate actin cytoskeletal rearrangement is the evolutionarily conserved CDM (C. elegansCed-5, human DOCK180, DrosophilaMyoblast city, or Mbc) family of proteins, which function as unconventional guanine nucleotide exchange factors for the small GTPase Rac. This CDM-Rac protein complex is sufficient for Rac activation, but is enhanced upon the association of CDM proteins with the ELMO/Ced-12 family of proteins. We identified and characterized the role of Drosophila Sponge (Spg), the vertebrate DOCK3/DOCK4 counterpart as an ELMO-interacting protein. Our analysis shows Spg mRNA and protein is expressed in the visceral musculature and developing nervous system, suggesting a role for Spg in later embryogenesis. As maternal null mutants of spg die early in development, we utilized genetic interaction analysis to uncover the role of Spg in central nervous system (CNS) development. Consistent with its role in ELMO-dependent pathways, we found genetic interactions with spg and elmo mutants exhibited aberrant axonal defects. In addition, our data suggests Ncad may be responsible for recruiting Spg to the membrane, possibly in CNS development. Our findings not only characterize the role of a new DOCK family member, but help to further understand the role of signaling downstream of N-cadherin in neuronal development.

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