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Rac1 and Cdc42 are regulators of HRasV12-transformation and angiogenic factors in human fibroblasts

Daniel M Appledorn12, Kim-Hien T Dao45, Sandra O'Reilly1, Veronica M Maher1234 and J Justin McCormick1234*

  • * Corresponding author: J Justin McCormick

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Carcinogenesis Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824-1302, USA

2 Cell and Molecular Biology Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824-1302, USA

3 Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824-1302, USA

4 Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824-1302, USA

5 Current address: Department of Medicine, Division Hematology-Oncology, Center for Hematologic Malignancies, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd. UHN73C, Portland, OR, 97239, USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-13

Published: 12 January 2010



The activities of Rac1 and Cdc42 are essential for HRas-induced transformation of rodent fibroblasts. What is more, expression of constitutively activated mutants of Rac1 and/or Cdc42 is sufficient for their malignant transformation. The role for these two Rho GTPases in HRas-mediated transformation of human fibroblasts has not been studied. Here we evaluated the contribution of Rac1 and Cdc42 to maintaining HRas-induced transformation of human fibroblasts, and determined the ability of constitutively activated mutants of Rac1 or Cdc42 to induce malignant transformation of a human fibroblast cell strain.


Under the control of a tetracycline regulatable promoter, dominant negative mutants of Rac1 and Cdc42 were expressed in a human HRas-transformed, tumor derived fibroblast cell line. These cells were used to determine the roles of Rac1 and/or Cdc42 proteins in maintaining HRas-induced transformed phenotypes. Similarly, constitutively active mutants were expressed in a non-transformed human fibroblast cell strain to evaluate their potential to induce malignant transformation. Affymetrix GeneChip arrays were used for transcriptome analyses, and observed expression differences were subsequently validated using protein assays.


Expression of dominant negative Rac1 and/or Cdc42 significantly altered transformed phenotypes of HRas malignantly transformed human fibroblasts. In contrast, expression of constitutively active mutants of Rac1 or Cdc42 was not sufficient to induce malignant transformation. Microarray analysis revealed that the expression of 29 genes was dependent on Rac1 and Cdc42, many of which are known to play a role in cancer. The dependence of two such genes, uPA and VEGF was further validated in both normoxic and hypoxic conditions.


The results presented here indicate that expression of both Rac1 and Cdc42 is necessary for maintaining several transformed phenotypes in oncogenic HRas transformed human cells, including their ability to form tumors in athymic mice. Our data also indicate that expression of either activated Rac1 or Cdc42 alone is not sufficient for malignant transformation of human fibroblasts, although each is required for specific transformed phenotypes. Furthermore, our study elucidates that the expression of several highly significant cancer related genes require the activities of Rac1 and/or Cdc42 which may also play a critical role in cellular transformation.