Background: The transition of epithelial cells from their normal non-motile state to a motile one requires the coordinated action of a number of small GTPases. We have previously shown that epithelial cell migration is stimulated by the coordinated activation of Arf and Rac GTPases. This crosstalk depends upon the assembly of a multi-protein complex that contains the Arf-activating protein cytohesin 2/ARNO and the Rac activating protein Dock180. Two scaffolding proteins that bind directly to cytohesin 2 organize this complex.
Results: We now have found that Rac activation in response to hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) requires cytohesin 2 and Dock180. GRASP/Tamalin is one of the scaffolds that builds the complex containing cytohesin 2 and Dock180. We determine here that the Ala/Pro rich region of GRASP directly interacts with the SH3 domain of Dock180. By binding to both cytohesin 2/ARNO and Dock180, GRASP bridges the guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) that activate Arf and Rac, thereby promoting Arf-to-Rac signaling. Furthermore, we find that knockdown of GRASP impairs hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-stimulated Rac activation and HGF-stimulated epithelial migration.
Conclusions: GRASP binds directly both cytohesin 2 and Dock180 to coordinate their activities, and by doing so promotes crosstalk between Arf and Rac.