Slit2-Robo4 signalling promotes vascular stability by blocking Arf6 activity

Nat Cell Biol. 2009 Nov;11(11):1325-31. doi: 10.1038/ncb1976. Epub 2009 Oct 18.


Slit-Roundabout (Robo) signalling has a well-understood role in axon guidance. Unlike in the nervous system, however, Slit-dependent activation of an endothelial-specific Robo, Robo4, does not initiate a guidance program. Instead, Robo4 maintains the barrier function of the mature vascular network by inhibiting neovascular tuft formation and endothelial hyperpermeability induced by pro-angiogenic factors. In this study, we used cell biological and biochemical techniques to elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying the maintenance of vascular stability by Robo4. Here, we demonstrate that Robo4 mediates Slit2-dependent suppression of cellular protrusive activity through direct interaction with the intracellular adaptor protein paxillin and its paralogue, Hic-5. Formation of a Robo4-paxillin complex at the cell surface blocks activation of the small GTPase Arf6 and, consequently, Rac by recruitment of Arf-GAPs (ADP-ribosylation factor- directed GTPase-activating proteins) such as GIT1. Consistent with these in vitro studies, inhibition of Arf6 activity in vivo phenocopies Robo4 activation by reducing pathologic angiogenesis in choroidal and retinal vascular disease and VEGF-165 (vascular endothelial growth factor-165)-induced retinal hyperpermeability. These data reveal that a Slit2-Robo4-paxillin-GIT1 network inhibits the cellular protrusive activity underlying neovascularization and vascular leak, and identify a new therapeutic target for ameliorating diseases involving the vascular system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / metabolism
  • Blood Vessels / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement
  • Cricetinae
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • ROBO4 protein, human
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors
  • ADP-ribosylation factor 6
  • Slit homolog 2 protein