Astrocytes in the CNS undergo morphological changes and start to proliferate after breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. In culture, proliferating astrocytes have a flat, polygonal shape. When treated with cAMP-raising agents, astrocytes adopt a stellate, process-bearing morphology resembling their in vivo appearance. Stellation is accompanied by loss of actin stress fibers and focal adhesions. Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a blood-borne mitogen that signals through its cognate G protein-coupled receptor, stimulates DNA synthesis in astrocytes and causes rapid reversal of cAMP-induced stellation. LPA reversal of stellation is initiated by f-actin reassembly and tyrosine phosphorylation of focal adhesion proteins such as paxillin. Botulinum C3 toxin, which inactivates the Rho GTPase, mimics cAMP-raising agents in inducing stellation, f-actin disassembly, paxillin dephosphorylation, and growth arrest. However, unlike cAMP-induced stellation, C3-induced stellation cannot be reversed by LPA. Conversely, astrocytes expressing activated RhoA fail to undergo cAMP-induced stellation. Thus, RhoA controls astrocyte morphology in that active RhoA directs LPA reversal of stellation, while inactivation of RhoA is sufficient to induce stellation.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.