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Exp Cell Res. 1998 Dec 15;245(2):252-62.

Regulation of astrocyte morphology by RhoA and lysophosphatidic acid.

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Division of Cellular Biochemistry, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, Amsterdam, 1066 CX, The Netherlands.


Astrocytes in the CNS undergo morphological changes and start to proliferate after breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. In culture, proliferating astrocytes have a flat, polygonal shape. When treated with cAMP-raising agents, astrocytes adopt a stellate, process-bearing morphology resembling their in vivo appearance. Stellation is accompanied by loss of actin stress fibers and focal adhesions. Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a blood-borne mitogen that signals through its cognate G protein-coupled receptor, stimulates DNA synthesis in astrocytes and causes rapid reversal of cAMP-induced stellation. LPA reversal of stellation is initiated by f-actin reassembly and tyrosine phosphorylation of focal adhesion proteins such as paxillin. Botulinum C3 toxin, which inactivates the Rho GTPase, mimics cAMP-raising agents in inducing stellation, f-actin disassembly, paxillin dephosphorylation, and growth arrest. However, unlike cAMP-induced stellation, C3-induced stellation cannot be reversed by LPA. Conversely, astrocytes expressing activated RhoA fail to undergo cAMP-induced stellation. Thus, RhoA controls astrocyte morphology in that active RhoA directs LPA reversal of stellation, while inactivation of RhoA is sufficient to induce stellation.

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