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Open Access Research article

A novel Dictyostelium RasGEF required for chemotaxis and development

Maddalena Arigoni1, Enrico Bracco1, Daniel F Lusche2, Helmut Kae3, Gerald Weeks3 and Salvatore Bozzaro1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Torino, Regione Gonzole 10, 10043 Orbassano, Italy

2 Faculty of Biology, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

3 Dept. Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, Canada V6T1Z3

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BMC Cell Biology 2005, 6:43  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-6-43

Published: 7 December 2005

Abstract

Background

Ras proteins are guanine-nucleotide-binding enzymes that couple cell surface receptors to intracellular signaling pathways controlling cell proliferation and differentiation, both in lower and higher eukaryotes. They act as molecular switches by cycling between active GTP and inactive GDP-bound states, through the action of two classes of regulatory proteins: a) guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEFs) and b) GTP-ase activating proteins (GAPs). Genome wide analysis of the lower eukaryote Dictyostelium discoideum revealed a surprisingly large number of Ras Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors (RasGEFs). RasGEFs promote the activation of Ras proteins by catalyzing the exchange of GDP for GTP, thus conferring to RasGEFs the role of main activator of Ras proteins. Up to date only four RasGEFs, which are all non-redundant either for growth or development, have been characterized in Dictyostelium. We report here the identification and characterization of a fifth non-redundant GEF, RasGEFM.

Results

RasGEFM is a multi-domain protein containing six poly-proline stretches, a DEP, RasGEFN and RasGEF catalytic domain. The rasGEFM gene is differentially expressed during growth and development. Inactivation of the gene results in cells that form small, flat aggregates and fail to develop further. Expression of genes required for aggregation is delayed. Chemotaxis towards cAMP is impaired in the mutant, due to inability to inhibit lateral pseudopods. Endogenous cAMP accumulates during early development to a much lower extent than in wild type cells. Adenylyl cyclase activation in response to cAMP pulses is strongly reduced, by contrast guanylyl cyclase is stimulated to higher levels than in the wild type. The actin polymerization response to cAMP is also altered in the mutant. Cyclic AMP pulsing for several hours partially rescues the mutant. In vitro experiments suggest that RasGEFM acts downstream of the cAMP receptor but upstream of the G protein.

Conclusion

The data indicate that RasGEFM is involved in the establishment of the cAMP relay system. We propose that RasGEFM is a component of a Ras regulated pathway, which integrate signals acting as positive regulator for adenylyl cyclase and negative regulator for guanylyl cyclase. Altered guanylyl cyclase, combined with defective regulation of actin polymerization, results in altered chemotaxis.