Hypotonicity induces membrane protrusions and actin remodeling via activation of small GTPases Rac and Cdc42 in Rat-1 fibroblasts

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2003 Oct;285(4):C935-44. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00069.2003. Epub 2003 Jun 4.


An important consequence of cell swelling is the reorganization of the F-actin cytoskeleton in different cell types. We demonstrate in this study by means of rhodamine-phalloidin labeling and fluorescence microscopy that a drastic reorganization of F-actin occurs in swollen Rat-1 fibroblasts: stress fibers disappear and F-actin patches are formed in peripheral extensions at the cell border. Moreover, we demonstrate that activation of both Rac and Cdc42, members of the family of small Rho GTPases, forms the link between the hypotonic stimulation and F-actin reorganization. Indeed, inhibition of the small GTPases RhoA, Rac, and Cdc42 (by Clostridium difficile toxin B) prevents the hypotonicity-induced reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton, whereas inhibition of RhoA alone (by C. limosum C3 exoenzyme) does not preclude this rearrangement. Second, a direct activation and translocation toward the actin patches underneath the plasma membrane is observed for endogenous Rac and Cdc42 (but not for RhoA) during cell swelling. Finally, transfection of Rat-1 fibroblasts with constitutively active RhoA, dominant negative Rac, or dominant negative Cdc42 abolishes the swelling-induced actin reorganization. Interestingly, application of cRGD, a competitor peptide for fibronectin-integrin association, induces identical membrane protrusions and changes in the F-actin cytoskeleton that are also inhibited by C. difficile toxin B and dominant negative Rac or Cdc42. Moreover, cRGD also induces a redistribution of endogenous Rac and Cdc42 to the newly formed submembranous F-actin patches. We therefore conclude that hypotonicity and cRGD remodel the F-actin cytoskeleton in Rat-1 fibroblasts in a Rac/Cdc42-dependent way.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / drug effects
  • Actins / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure*
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Hypotonic Solutions / pharmacology*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / genetics
  • Peptides, Cyclic / physiology
  • Rats
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / genetics
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / physiology


  • Actins
  • Hypotonic Solutions
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • cyclo(S,S)KYGCRGDWPC
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein