Rap1 GTPase promotes coordinated collective cell migration in vivo

Mol Biol Cell. 2018 Nov 1;29(22):2656-2673. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E17-12-0752. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


During development and in cancer, cells often move together in small to large collectives. To move as a unit, cells within collectives need to stay coupled together and coordinate their motility. How cell collectives remain interconnected and migratory, especially when moving through in vivo environments, is not well understood. The genetically tractable border cell group undergoes a highly polarized and cohesive cluster-type migration in the Drosophila ovary. Here we report that the small GTPase Rap1, through activation by PDZ-GEF, regulates border cell collective migration. We find that Rap1 maintains cell contacts within the cluster, at least in part by promoting the organized distribution of E-cadherin at specific cell-cell junctions. Rap1 also restricts migratory protrusions to the front of the border cell cluster and promotes the extension of protrusions with normal dynamics. Further, Rap1 is required in the outer migratory border cells but not in the central nonmigratory polar cells. Such cell specificity correlates well with the spatial distribution of the inhibitory Rapgap1 protein, which is higher in polar cells than in border cells. We propose that precisely regulated Rap1 activity reinforces connections between cells and polarizes the cluster, thus facilitating the coordinated collective migration of border cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Surface Extensions / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / enzymology*
  • Female
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • Shelterin Complex
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Cadherins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • RAP1 protein, Drosophila
  • Rapgap1 protein, Drosophila
  • Shelterin Complex
  • Telomere-Binding Proteins