The Rho-family of p21 small GTPases are directly linked to the regulation of actin-based motile machinery and play a key role in the control of cell migration. Aside from the original and most well-characterized canonical Rho GTPases RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42, numerous isoforms of these key proteins have been identified and shown to have specific roles in regulating various cellular motility processes. The major difficulty in addressing these isoform-specific effects is that isoforms typically contain highly similar primary amino acid sequences and thus are able to interact with the same upstream regulators and the downstream effector targets. Here, we will introduce the major members of each GTPase subfamily and discuss recent advances in the design and application of fluorescent resonance energy transfer-based probes, which are at the forefront of the technologies available to directly probe the differential, spatiotemporal activation dynamics of these proteins in live single cells. Currently, it is possible to specifically detect the activation status of RhoA vs. RhoC isoforms, as well as Cdc42 vs. TC-10 isoforms in living cells. Clearly, additional efforts are still required to produce biosensor systems capable of detecting other isoforms of Rho GTPases including RhoB, Rac2/3, RhoG, etc. Through such efforts, we will uncover the isoform-specific roles of these near-identical proteins in living cells, clearly an important area of the Rho GTPase biology that is not yet fully appreciated.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology