Rac1 and Aurora A regulate MCAK to polarize microtubule growth in migrating endothelial cells

J Cell Biol. 2014 Jul 7;206(1):97-112. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201401063.


Endothelial cells (ECs) migrate directionally during angiogenesis and wound healing by polarizing to extracellular cues to guide directional movement. EC polarization is controlled by microtubule (MT) growth dynamics, which are regulated by MT-associated proteins (MAPs) that alter MT stability. Mitotic centromere-associated kinesin (MCAK) is a MAP that promotes MT disassembly within the mitotic spindle, yet its function in regulating MT dynamics to promote EC polarity and migration has not been investigated. We used high-resolution fluorescence microscopy coupled with computational image analysis to elucidate the role of MCAK in regulating MT growth dynamics, morphology, and directional migration of ECs. Our results show that MCAK-mediated depolymerization of MTs is specifically targeted to the trailing edge of polarized wound-edge ECs. Regulation of MCAK function is dependent on Aurora A kinase, which is regionally enhanced by signaling from the small guanosine triphosphatase, Rac1. Thus, a Rac1-Aurora A-MCAK signaling pathway mediates EC polarization and directional migration by promoting regional differences in MT dynamics in the leading and trailing cell edges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aurora Kinase A / metabolism*
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Polarity
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / enzymology*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Kinesin / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • KIF2C protein, human
  • RAC1 protein, human
  • AURKA protein, human
  • Aurora Kinase A
  • Kinesin
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein