Background: In animal cells, GTPase signaling pathways are thought to generate cellular protrusions by modulating the activity of downstream actin-regulatory proteins. Although the molecular events linking activation of a GTPase to the formation of an actin-based process with a characteristic morphology are incompletely understood, Rac-GTP is thought to promote the activation of SCAR/WAVE, whereas Cdc42 is thought to initiate the formation of filopodia through WASP. SCAR and WASP then activate the Arp2/3 complex to nucleate the formation of new actin filaments, which through polymerization exert a protrusive force on the membrane.
Results: Using RNAi to screen for genes regulating cell form in an adherent Drosophila cell line, we identified a set of genes, including Abi/E3B1, that are absolutely required for the formation of dynamic protrusions. These genes delineate a pathway from Cdc42 and Rac to SCAR and the Arp2/3 complex. Efforts to place Abi in this signaling hierarchy revealed that Abi and two components of a recently identified SCAR complex, Sra1 (p140/PIR121/CYFIP) and Kette (Nap1/Hem), protect SCAR from proteasome-mediated degradation and are critical for SCAR localization and for the generation of Arp2/3-dependent protrusions.
Conclusions: In Drosophila cells, SCAR is regulated by Abi, Kette, and Sra1, components of a conserved regulatory SCAR complex. By controlling the stability, localization, and function of SCAR, these proteins may help to ensure that Arp2/3 activation and the generation of actin-based protrusions remain strictly dependant on local GTPase signaling.