Lin, Li; Tran, Thuy; Hu, Shuang; Cramer, Todd; Komuniecki, Richard; Steven, Robert M
RhoGEF proteins activate the Rho family of small GTPases and thus play a key role in regulating fundamental cellular processes such as cell morphology and polarity, cell cycle progression and gene transcription. We identified a Caenorhabditis elegans RhoGEF protein, RHGF-2, as a binding partner of the C. elegans multi-PDZ domain scaffold protein MPZ-1 (MUPP1 in mammals). RHGF-2 exhibits significant identity to the mammalian RhoGEFs PLEKHG5/Tech/Syx and contains a class I C-terminal PDZ binding motif (SDV) that interacts most strongly to MPZ-1 PDZ domain eight. RHGF-2 RhoGEF activity is specific to the C. elegans RhoA homolog RHO-1 as determined by direct binding, GDP/GTP exchange and serum response element-driven reporter activity. rhgf-2 is an essential gene since rhgf-2 deletion mutants do not elongate during embryogenesis and hatch as short immobile animals that arrest development. Interestingly, the expression of a functional rhgf-2::gfp transgene appears to be exclusively neuronal and rhgf-2 overexpression results in loopy movement with exaggerated body bends. Transient expression of RHGF-2 in N1E-115 neuroblastoma cells prevents neurite outgrowth similar to constitutive RhoA activation in these cells. Together, these observations indicate neuronally expressed RHGF-2 is an essential RHO-1 specific RhoGEF that binds most strongly to MPZ-1 PDZ domain eight and is required for wild-type C. elegans morphology and growth.