To get insight into the action of Rho GTPases on the microtubule system we investigated the effects of Cdc42, Rac1, and RhoA on the dynamics of microtubules in Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts. In control cells microtubule ends were dynamic: plus ends frequently switched between growth, shortening and pauses; the growth phase predominated over shortening. Free minus ends of microtubules depolymerized rapidly and never grew. Free microtubules were short-lived, and the microtubule network was organized into a radial array. In serum-starved cells microtubule ends became more stable: although plus ends still transited between growth and shortening, polymerization and depolymerization excursions became shorter and balanced each other. Microtubule minus ends were also stabilized. Consequently lifespan of free microtubules increased and microtubule array changed its radial pattern into a random one. Activation of Cdc42 and Rac1 in serum-starved cells promoted dynamic behavior of microtubule plus and minus ends, while inhibition of these GTPases in serum-grown cells suppressed microtubule dynamics and mimicked all effects of serum starvation. Activation of RhoA in serum-grown cells had effects similar to Cdc42 /Rac1 inactivation: it suppressed the dynamics of plus and minus ends, reduced the length of growth and shrinking episodes, and disrupted the radial organization of microtubules. However, in contrast to Cdc42 and Rac1 inactivation, active RhoA had no effect on the balance between microtubule growth and shortening. We conclude that Cdc42 and Rac1 have similar stimulating effects on microtubule dynamics while RhoA acts in an opposite way.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc