Regulation of cytokinesis by Rho GTPase flux

Nat Cell Biol. 2009 Jan;11(1):71-7. doi: 10.1038/ncb1814. Epub 2008 Dec 7.


In animal cells, cytokinesis is powered by a contractile ring of actin filaments (F-actin) and myosin-2. Formation of the contractile ring is dependent on the small GTPase RhoA, which is activated in a precise zone at the cell equator. It has long been assumed that cytokinesis and other Rho-dependent processes are controlled in a sequential manner, whereby Rho activation by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) initiates a particular event, and Rho inactivation by GTPase activating proteins (GAPs) terminates that event. MgcRacGAP is a conserved cytokinesis regulator thought to be required only at the end of cytokinesis. Here we show that GAP activity of MgcRacGAP is necessary early during cytokinesis for the formation and maintenance of the Rho activity zone. Disruption of GAP activity by point mutation results in poorly focused Rho activity zones, whereas complete removal of the GAP domain results in unfocused zones that show lateral instability and/or rapid side-to-side oscillations. We propose that the GAP domain of MgcRacGAP has two unexpected roles throughout cytokinesis: first, it transiently anchors active Rho, and second, it promotes local Rho inactivation, resulting in the constant flux of Rho through the GTPase cycle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / genetics
  • Cytokinesis / genetics*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation / genetics
  • Female
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / chemistry
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / genetics*
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins / metabolism*
  • Point Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / genetics
  • Spindle Apparatus / enzymology
  • Spindle Apparatus / genetics
  • Xenopus laevis
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • mgcRacGAP
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins