Background: The Rho GTPases Rho, Rac, and Cdc42 regulate the organization of the actin cytoskeleton by interacting with multiple, distinct downstream effector proteins. Cdc42 controls the formation of actin bundle-containing filopodia at the cellular periphery. The molecular mechanism for this remains as yet unclear.
Results: We report here that Cdc42 interacts with IRSp53/BAP2 alpha, an SH3 domain-containing scaffold protein, at a partial CRIB motif and that an N-terminal fragment of IRSp53 binds, via an intramolecular interaction, to the CRIB motif-containing central region. Overexpression of IRSp53 in fibroblasts leads to the formation of filopodia, and both this and Cdc42-induced filopodia are inhibited by expression of the N-terminal IRSp53 fragment. Using affinity chromatography, we have identified Mena, an Ena/VASP family member, as interacting with the SH3 domain of IRSp53. Mena and IRSp53 act synergistically to promote filopodia formation.
Conclusion: We conclude that the interaction of Cdc42 with the partial CRIB motif of IRSp53 relieves an intramolecular, autoinhibitory interaction with the N terminus, allowing the recruitment of Mena to the IRSp53 SH3 domain. This IRSp53:Mena complex initiates actin filament assembly into filopodia.