Molecular and cellular biology

Pak1 and Pak2 mediate tumor cell invasion through distinct signaling mechanisms.

PMID 18411304


Pak kinases are thought to play critical roles in cell migration and invasion. Here, we analyze the roles of Pak1 and Pak2 in breast carcinoma cell invasion using the transient transfection of small interfering RNA. We find that although both Pak1 and Pak2 contribute to breast carcinoma invasion stimulated by heregulin, these roles are mediated by distinct signaling mechanisms. Thus, whereas the depletion of Pak1 interferes with the heregulin-mediated dephosphorylation of cofilin, the depletion of Pak2 does not. The depletion of Pak1 also has a stronger inhibitory effect on lamellipodial protrusion than does the depletion of Pak2. Interestingly, Pak1 and Pak2 play opposite roles in regulating the phosphorylation of the myosin light chain (MLC). Whereas the depletion of Pak1 decreases phospho-MLC levels in heregulin-stimulated cells, the depletion of Pak2 enhances MLC phosphorylation. Consistent with their opposite effects on MLC phosphorylation, Pak1 and Pak2 differentially modulate focal adhesions. Pak2-depleted cells display an increase in focal adhesion size, whereas in Pak1-depleted cells, focal adhesions fail to mature. We also found that the depletion of Pak2, but not Pak1, enhances RhoA activity and that the inhibition of RhoA signaling in Pak2-depleted cells decreases MLC phosphorylation and restores cell invasion. In summary, this work presents the first comprehensive analysis of functional differences between the Pak1 and Pak2 isoforms.