Fgd5 is a Rac1-specific Rho GEF that is selectively inhibited by aurintricarboxylic acid

Small GTPases. 2021 Mar;12(2):147-160. doi: 10.1080/21541248.2019.1674765. Epub 2019 Oct 10.


Rho proteins are signalling molecules that control cellular dynamics, movement and morphological changes. They are activated by Rho guanine-nucleotide exchange factors (Rho GEFs) that transduce upstream signals into Rho-mediated activation of downstream processes. Fgd5 is a Rho GEF involved in angiogenesis and its target Rho protein for this process has been linked to Cdc42 activation. Here, we examined the function of purified Fgd5, specifically, which Rho proteins it activates and pinpoint the structural domains required for enzymatic activity. Using a GEF enzyme assay, we found that purified Fgd5 showed preferential activation of Rac1 and direct binding of Rac1 in pull-down and co-immunoprecipitation assays. Structural comparisons showed that the Fgd5 DH domain is highly similar to the Rac1 GEF, TrioN, supporting a role for Fgd5 as a Rac1 GEF. Compounds that bind to purified Fgd5 DH-PH protein were identified by screening a small molecule library via surface plasmon resonance. The effects of eleven ligands were further examined for their ability to inhibit the Fgd5 GEF enzymatic activity and Rac1 interaction. From these studies, we found that the compound aurintricarboxylic acid, and to a lesser extent mitoxantrone dihydrochloride, inhibited both Fgd5 GEF activation of Rac1 and their interaction. Aurintricarboxylic acid had no effect on the activity or binding of the Rac1 GEF, TrioN, thus demonstrating the feasibility of selectively disrupting Rho GEF activators. Abbreviations: a.a.: amino acid; ATA: aurintricarboxylic acid; DH: Dbl homology; DOCK: dictator of cytokinesis; Fgd: faciogenital dysplasia; GEF: guanine-nucleotide exchange factor; GST: glutathione S-transferase; LOPAC: library of pharmacologically active compounds; PH: pleckstrin homology; PDB: protein data bank; s.e.m.: standard error of the mean; SPR: surface plasmon resonance.

Keywords: Rac1; Rho GTPase; aurintricarboxylic acid; guanine-nucleotide exchange factor; surface plasmon resonance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aurintricarboxylic Acid*


  • Aurintricarboxylic Acid

Grant support

This work was supported by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute [703774]; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada [327237].