Modulation of GEF-H1 induced signaling by heparanase in brain metastatic melanoma cells

J Cell Biochem. 2010 Dec 1;111(5):1299-309. doi: 10.1002/jcb.22854.


Mechanisms of brain metastatic melanoma (BMM) remain largely unknown. Understanding the modulation of signaling pathways that alter BMM cell invasion and metastasis is critical to develop new therapies for BMM. Heparanase has been widely implicated in cancer and is the dominant mammalian endoglycosidase which degrades heparan sulfate chains of proteoglycans (HSPG) including syndecans (SDCs). Recent findings also indicate that heparanase possesses non-enzymatic functions in its latent form. We hypothesized that extracellular heparanase modulates BMM cell signaling by involving SDC1/4 carboxy terminal-associated proteins and downstream targets. We digested BMM cell surface HS with human recombinant active or latent heparanase to delineate their effects on cytoskeletal dynamics and cell invasiveness. We identified the small GTPase guanine nucleotide exchange factor-H1 (GEF-H1) as a new component of a SDC signaling complex that is differentially expressed in BMM cells compared to corresponding non-metastatic counterparts. Second, knockdown of GEF-H1, SDC1, or SDC4 decreased BMM cell invasiveness and GEF-H1 modulated small GTPase activity of Rac1 and RhoA in conjunction with heparanase treatment. Third, both active and latent forms of heparanase affected Rac1 and RhoA activity; notably increasing RhoA activity. Both forms of heparanase were found to mediate the expression and subcellular localization of GEF-H1, and treatment of BMM with latent heparanase modulated SDC1/4 gene expression. Finally, treatment with exogenous heparanase downregulated BMM cell invasion. These studies indicate the relevance of heparanase signaling pathways in BMM progression, and provide insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating HSPG signaling in response to exogenous heparanase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Glucuronidase / pharmacology*
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / drug effects
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Syndecans / metabolism


  • ARHGEF2 protein, human
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Proteoglycans
  • Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • Syndecans
  • heparanase
  • Glucuronidase