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Small GTPases. 2011 Sep;2(5):268-275. Epub 2011 Sep 1.

Opening up on ELMO regulation: New insights into the control of Rac signaling by the DOCK180/ELMO complex.

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Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal (IRCM); Montréal, Canada.


GTPases are central hubs for directing cytoskeletal reorganization and cell migration. The DOCK family enforces positive regulation of certain GTPases, leading to their activation in discrete areas of the cell. ELMO, a well-known DOCK180 binding partner, has been cast with the role of potentiating DOCK180-mediated Rac activation. Exactly how ELMO contributes to Rac signaling is only beginning to be understood. Here, we discuss our most recent research investigating ELMO regulation of the DOCK180/Rac pathway. Interestingly, we found that ELMO is autoinhibited via intramolecular contacts at basal levels and we explore the novel domains that we identified at the heart of the auto-regulatory switch. We propose that the closed ELMO molecule masks protein-protein interfaces or domains with novel uncharacterized function; cell stimulation and GTPase binding to ELMO is proposed to activate (open) the protein and/or target the ELMO/DOCK180 complex to the cell membrane. In this manner, promiscuous signaling/activity downstream of ELMO/DOCK180 can be controlled for both spatially and temporally. Additionally, we report new data highlighting that DOCK proteins can form heterodimers, and we discuss possible mechanisms that could be implicated in controlling the ELMO activation state.

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