LGR5 receptor promotes cell-cell adhesion in stem cells and colon cancer cells via the IQGAP1-Rac1 pathway

J Biol Chem. 2017 Sep 8;292(36):14989-15001. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M117.786798. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


Leucine-rich repeat-containing G protein-coupled receptor 5 (LGR5) is a bona fide marker of adult stem cells in several epithelial tissues, most notably in the intestinal crypts, and is highly up-regulated in many colorectal, hepatocellular, and ovarian cancers. LGR5 activation by R-spondin (RSPO) ligands potentiates Wnt/β-catenin signaling in vitro; however, deletion of LGR5 in stem cells has little or no effect on Wnt/β-catenin signaling or cell proliferation in vivo Remarkably, modulation of LGR5 expression has a major impact on the actin cytoskeletal structure and cell adhesion in the absence of RSPO stimulation, but the molecular mechanism is unclear. Here, we show that LGR5 interacts with IQ motif-containing GTPase-activating protein 1 (IQGAP1), an effector of Rac1/CDC42 GTPases, in the regulation of actin cytoskeleton dynamics and cell-cell adhesion. Specifically, LGR5 decreased levels of IQGAP1 phosphorylation at Ser-1441/1443, leading to increased binding of Rac1 to IQGAP1 and thus higher levels of cortical F-actin and enhanced cell-cell adhesion. LGR5 ablation in colon cancer cells and crypt stem cells resulted in loss of cortical F-actin, reduced cell-cell adhesion, and disrupted localization of adhesion-associated proteins. No evidence of LGR5 coupling to any of the four major subtypes of heterotrimeric G proteins was found. These findings suggest that LGR5 primarily functions via the IQGAP1-Rac1 pathway to strengthen cell-cell adhesion in normal adult crypt stem cells and colon cancer cells.

Keywords: 7-helix receptor; G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); adhesion; cancer stem cells; intestine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cricetulus
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • ras GTPase-Activating Proteins / metabolism*


  • IQ motif containing GTPase activating protein 1
  • LGR5 protein, human
  • RAC1 protein, human
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • ras GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein