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EMBO J. 1998 Aug 3;17(15):4328-39.

PAK promotes morphological changes by acting upstream of Rac.

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Glaxo-IMCB Group, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore.


The serine/threonine kinase p21-activated kinase (PAK) has been implicated as a downstream effector of the small GTPases Rac and Cdc42. While these GTPases evidently induce a variety of morphological changes, the role(s) of PAK remains elusive. Here we report that overexpression of betaPAK in PC12 cells induces a Rac phenotype, including cell spreading/membrane ruffling, and increased lamellipodia formation at growth cones and shafts of nerve growth factor-induced neurites. These effects are still observed in cells expressing kinase-negative or Rac/Cdc42 binding-deficient PAK mutants, indicating that kinase- and p21-binding domains are not involved. Furthermore, lamellipodia formation in all cell lines, including those expressing Rac binding-deficient PAK, is inhibited significantly by dominant-negative RacN17. Equal inhibition is achieved by blocking PAK interaction with the guanine nucleotide exchange factor PIX using a specific N-terminal PAK fragment. We conclude that PAK, via its N-terminal non-catalytic domain, acts upstream of Rac mediating lamellipodia formation through interaction with PIX.

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