p21-activated kinases (Paks) are prominent mediators of Rac/Cdc42-dependent and -independent signaling and regulate signal transduction and cytoskeletal-based cell movements. We used the reproducible migrations of the Caenorhabditis elegans gonadal distal tip cells to show that two of the three nematode Pak proteins, MAX-2 and PAK-1, function redundantly in regulation of cell migration but are regulated by very different mechanisms. First, we suggest that MAX-2 requires CED-10/Rac function and thus functions canonically. Second, PIX-1 and GIT-1 function in the same role as PAK-1, and PAK-1 interaction with PIX-1 is required for PAK-1 activity; thus, PAK-1 functions noncanonically. The human Pak-Pix-Git complex is central to noncanonical Pak signaling and requires only modest Rac/CDC-42 input. Unlike the human complex, our results suggest that the C. elegans Pak-Pix-Git complex requires PAK-1 kinase domain activity. This study delineates signaling network relationships in this cell migration model, thus providing potential further mechanistic insights and an assessment of total Pak contribution to cell migration events.
Keywords: Dock180; ELMO; MIG-2; PAK-2; RAC-2; RhoG.