Different signaling and functionality of Rac1 and Rac1b in the progression of lung adenocarcinoma

Julia R. Seiz, Johannes Klinke, Laura Scharlibbe, Dirk Lohfink, Marisa Heipel, Hendrik Ungefroren, Klaudia Giehl, Andre Menke*

*Corresponding author for this work
3 Citations (Scopus)


Rac1 is a ubiquitously expressed Rho GTPase and an important regulator of the actin cytoskeleton. Its splice variant Rac1b exhibits a 19-amino acid (aa) in-frame insertion and is predominantly active. Both proteins were described in tumorigenesis or metastasis. We investigated the contribution of Rac1 and Rac1b to tumor progression of human non-small-cell lung adenocarcinoma (NSCLA). Rac1 protein was present in 8/8 NSCLA cell lines analyzed, whereas Rac1b was expressed in only 6/8. In wound-healing assays, enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP)-Rac1 slightly decreased cell migration, whereas proliferation was increased in both, Rac1- and Rac1b-expressing cells. In the in vivo chorioallantoic invasion model, EGFP-Rac1-expressing cells formed more invasive tumors compared to EGFP-Rac1b. This increased invasiveness correlated with enhanced phosphorylation of p38α, AKT and glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), and activation of serum response- and Smad-dependent gene promoters by Rac1. In contrast, Rac1b solely activated the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) JNK2, together with TCF/LEF1- and nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB)-responsive gene reporters. Rac1b, as Rac1, phosphorylated p38α, AKT and GSK3β. Knockdown of the splicing factor epithelial splicing regulatory protein 1 (ESRP1), which mediates out-splicing of exon 3b from Rac1 pre-messenger RNA, resulted in increased Rac1b messenger RNA (mRNA) and suppression of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-associated transcription factor ZEB1. Our data demonstrate different signaling and functional activities of Rac1 and Rac1b and an important role for Rac1 in lung cancer metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Chemistry
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)517-531
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2020


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