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Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

Affinity precipitation of active Rho-GEFs using a GST-tagged mutant Rho protein (GST-RhoA(G17A)) from epithelial cell lysates.


PMID 22491204

Abstract

Proteins of the Rho family of small GTPases are central regulators of the cytoskeleton, and control a large variety of cellular processes, including cell migration, gene expression, cell cycle progression and cell adhesion. Rho proteins are molecular switches that are active in GTP-bound and inactive in GDP-bound state. Their activation is mediated by a family of Guanine-nucleotide Exchange Factor (GEF) proteins. Rho-GEFs constitute a large family, with overlapping specificities. Although a lot of progress has been made in identifying the GEFs activated by specific signals, there are still many questions remaining regarding the pathway-specific regulation of these proteins. The number of Rho-GEFs exceeds 70, and each cell expresses more than one GEF protein. In addition, many of these proteins activate not only Rho, but other members of the family, contributing further to the complexity of the regulatory networks. Importantly, exploring how GEFs are regulated requires a method to follow the active pool of individual GEFs in cells activated by different stimuli. Here we provide a step-by-step protocol for a method used to assess and quantify the available active Rho-specific GEFs using an affinity precipitation assay. This assay was developed a few years ago in the Burridge lab and we have used it in kidney tubular cell lines. The assay takes advantage of a "nucleotide free" mutant RhoA, with a high affinity for active GEFs. The mutation (G17A) renders the protein unable to bind GDP or GTP and this state mimics the intermediate state that is bound to the GEF. A GST-tagged version of this mutant protein is expressed and purified from E. coli, bound to glutathione sepharose beads and used to precipitate active GEFs from lysates of untreated and stimulated cells. As most GEFs are activated via posttranslational modifications or release from inhibitory bindings, their active state is preserved in cell lysates, and they can be detected by this assay. Captured proteins can be probed for known GEFs by detection with specific antibodies using Western blotting, or analyzed by Mass Spectrometry to identify unknown GEFs activated by certain stimuli.

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