Background: Phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI 3-kinases) are thought to play an important role in coordinating the responses elicited by a variety of growth factors, oncogene products and inflammatory stimuli. These responses include activation of membrane ruffling, chemotaxis, glucose transport, superoxide production, neurite outgrowth and pp70 S6 kinase. Some of these responses are also known to be regulated by Rac, a small GTP-binding protein related to Ras. Neither the transducing elements upstream of Rac, nor those downstream of PI 3-kinase, have been defined.
Results: We show here that platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) can stimulate an increase in the level of GTP-Rac by at least two distinct mechanisms: firstly, by increased guanine nucleotide exchange; and secondly, by inhibition of a Rac GTPase activity. The first of these mechanisms is essential for the activation of Rac, and we show that it is dependent upon PDGR-stimulated synthesis of phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate.
Conclusions: These results suggest that Rac activation lies downstream of PI 3-kinase activation on a PDGF-stimulated signalling pathway. Furthermore, as Rac has been implicated in at least two diverse cellular responses that are also though to require activation of PI 3-kinase--a reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton known as membrane ruffling and the neutrophil oxidative burst--these results suggest that Rac may be a major effector protein for the PI 3-kinase signalling pathway in many cell types.