Graf, the GTPase regulator associated with focal adhesion kinase was previously shown to have GAP activity for Ρ A and Cdc42 in vitro (Hildebrand et al 1996 Mol. Cell Biol. 16: 3169–3178). In this study we sought to determine whether Graf acted at the level of Cdc42, Rho, or both in vivo and whether Graf was a signal terminator or transducer for these proteins. Microinjection of Graf cDNA into subconfluent Swiss 3T3 cells (in the presence of serum) has marked effects on cell shape and actin localization. Graf expression causes clearing of stress fibers followed by formation of long actin based filopodial-like extensions. Similar phenotypes were observed following injection of the Rho-inhibitor, C3 into these cells. The Graf response was dependent on GAP activity, since injection of Graf cDNA containing point mutations in the GAP domain (R236Q or N351V) which block enzymatic activity, does not confer this phenotype. Injection of Graf into Swiss 3T3 cells in which Rho has been down-regulated by serum starvation has no effect on cell morphology. Using this system, we demonstrate that Graf blocks sphingosine-1-phosphate (SPP) stimulated (Rho-mediated) stress fiber formation. Conversely, Graf expression does not inhibit bradykinin stimulated (Cdc42-mediated) filopodial extensions. These data indicate that Graf is a GAP for Rho in vivo. To further substantiate these results we examined the effect of Graf over-expression on Rho-mediated neurite retraction in nerve growth factor (NGF)-differentiated PC12 cells. In PC12 cells, which express relatively high levels of endogenous Graf, overexpression of Graf (but not Graf containing the R236Q mutation) enhances SPP-induced neurite retraction. These data indicate the possibility that Graf may be an effector for Rho in certain cell types.

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