Background: Macropinocytosis, which is a constitutive cellular process of fluid and macromolecule uptake, is regulated by actin cytoskeleton rearrangements near the plasma membrane. Activation of Rac1, which is proposed to act upstream of the actin polymerization regulatory Wave 2 complex, has been found to correlate with enhanced macropinocytosis. One of the components of the Wave 2 complex is Abi1. Multiple, alternatively spliced isoforms of Abi1 are expressed in mammalian cells, but the functional significance of the various isoforms is unknown.
Principal findings: Here, using flow cytometric assay analysis for Alexa Fluor 647, we demonstrate that Abi1 isoforms 2 and 3 differentially regulate macropinocytosis. LNCaP cells expressing isoform 3 had increased macropinocytic uptake that correlated with enhanced cell spreading and higher Rac1 activation in comparison to cells expressing isoform 2. Isoform 2 expressing cells had decreased macropinocytic uptake, but demonstrated greater sensitivity to Rac1 activation. Moreover, more isoform 2 was localized within the cytoplasm in comparison to isoform 3, which was more associated with the plasma membrane. Activated Rac1 was found to specifically bind to a site in exon 10 of isoform 2 in vitro. Because of alternative mRNA splicing, exon 10 is absent from isoform 3, precluding similar binding of activated Rac1. Both isoforms, however, bound to inactive Rac1 through the same non-exon 10 site. Thus, Abi1 isoform 3-containing Wave 2 complex exhibited a differential binding to activated vs. inactive Rac1, whereas isoform 2-containing Wave 2 complex bound activated or inactive Rac1 comparably.
Conclusion: Based on these observations, we postulate that Abi1 isoforms differentially regulate macropinocytosis as a consequence of their different relative affinities for activated Rac1 in Wave 2 complex. These findings also raise the possibility that isoform-specific roles occur in other Abi1 functions.