Background: Besides regulation of actin cytoskeleton-dependent functions, Rho GTPase pathways are essential to cell cycle progression and cell division. Rho, Rac and Cdc42 regulate G1 to S phase progression and are involved in cytokinesis. RhoA GDP/GTP cycling is required for normal cytokinesis and recent reports have shown that the exchange factor Ect2 and the GTPase activating protein MgcRacGAP regulate RhoA activity during mitosis. We previously showed that the transcription factors E2F1 and CUX1 regulate expression of MgcRacGAP and Ect2 as cells enter S-phase.
Methodology/principal findings: We now report that Ect2 is subject to proteasomal degradation after mitosis, following ubiquitination by the APC/C complex and its co-activator Cdh1. A proper nuclear localization of Ect2 is necessary for its degradation. APC-Cdh1 assembles K11-linked poly-ubiquitin chains on Ect2, depending upon a stretch of ∼25 amino acid residues that contain a bi-partite NLS, a conventional D-box and two TEK-like boxes. Site-directed mutagenesis of target sequences generated stabilized Ect2 proteins. Furthermore, such degradation-resistant mutants of Ect2 were found to activate RhoA and subsequent signalling pathways and are able to transform NIH3T3 cells.
Conclusions/significance: Our results identify Ect2 as a bona fide cell cycle-regulated protein and suggest that its ubiquitination-dependent degradation may play an important role in RhoA regulation at the time of mitosis. Our findings raise the possibility that the overexpression of Ect2 that has been reported in some human tumors might result not only from deregulated transcription, but also from impaired degradation.