Background: Rho GTPases function as molecular switches in many different signaling pathways and control a wide range of cellular processes. Rho GDP-dissociation inhibitors (RhoGDIs) regulate Rho GTPase signaling and can function as both negative and positive regulators. The role of RhoGDIs as negative regulators of Rho GTPase signaling has been extensively investigated; however, little is known about how RhoGDIs act as positive regulators. Furthermore, it is unclear how this opposing role of GDIs influences the Rho GTPase cycle. We constructed ordinary differential equation models of the Rho GTPase cycle in which RhoGDIs inhibit the regulatory activities of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) and GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs) by interacting with them directly as well as by sequestering the Rho GTPases. Using this model, we analyzed the role of RhoGDIs in Rho GTPase signaling.
Results: The model constructed in this study showed that the functions of GEFs and GAPs are integrated into Rho GTPase signaling through the interactions of these regulators with GDIs, and that the negative role of GDIs is to suppress the overall Rho activity by inhibiting GEFs. Furthermore, the positive role of GDIs is to sustain Rho activation by inhibiting GAPs under certain conditions. The interconversion between transient and sustained Rho activation occurs mainly through changes in the affinities of GDIs to GAPs and the concentrations of GAPs.
Conclusions: RhoGDIs positively regulate Rho GTPase signaling primarily by interacting with GAPs and may participate in the switching between transient and sustained signals of the Rho GTPases. These findings enhance our understanding of the physiological roles of RhoGDIs and Rho GTPase signaling.