A microtubule-binding Rho-GEF controls cell morphology during convergent extension of Xenopus laevis

Development. 2005 Oct;132(20):4599-610. doi: 10.1242/dev.02041. Epub 2005 Sep 21.


During Xenopus development, convergent extension movements mediated by cell intercalation drive axial elongation. While many genes required for convergent extension have been identified, little is known of regulation of the cytoskeleton during these cell movements. Although microtubules are required for convergent extension, this applies only to initial stages of gastrulation, between stages 10 and 10.5. To examine the cytoskeleton more directly during convergent extension, we visualized actin and microtubules simultaneously in live explants using spinning disk confocal fluorescence microscopy. Microtubule depolymerization by nocodazole inhibits lamellipodial protrusions and cell-cell contact, thereby inhibiting convergent extension. However, neither taxol nor vinblastine, both of which block microtubule dynamics while stabilizing a polymer form of tubulin, inhibits lamellipodia or convergent extension. This suggests an unusual explanation: the mass of polymerized tubulin, not dynamics of the microtubule cytoskeleton, is crucial for convergent extension. Because microtubule depolymerization elicits striking effects on actin-based protrusions, the role of Rho-family GTPases was tested. The effects of nocodazole are partially rescued using dominant negative Rho, Rho-kinase inhibitor, or constitutively active Rac, suggesting that microtubules regulate small GTPases, possibly via a guanine-nucleotide exchange factor. We cloned full-length XLfc, a microtubule-binding Rho-GEF. Nucleotide exchange activity of XLfc is required for nocodazole-mediated inhibition of convergent extension; constitutively active XLfc recapitulates the effects of microtubule depolymerization. Morpholino knockdown of XLfc abrogates the ability of nocodazole to inhibit convergent extension. Therefore, we believe that XLfc is a crucial regulator of cell morphology during convergent extension, and microtubules limit its activity through binding to the lattice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Shape
  • Gastrula / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / genetics
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / drug effects
  • Microtubules / genetics
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Nocodazole / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Pseudopodia / genetics
  • Pseudopodia / metabolism
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology
  • Xenopus laevis / genetics
  • Xenopus laevis / metabolism*
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / genetics
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein
  • rac GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Nocodazole