Signaling mechanism controlling directional cell movement

Developmental Biology 3

Although cell migration plays a central role in development and disease, the underlying molecular mechanism is not fully understood. 

Authors report in Nature Communications that a phosphorylation-mediated molecular switch comprising deleted in liver cancer 1 (DLC1), tensin-3 (TNS3), phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) and phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) controls the spatiotemporal activation of the small GTPases, Rac1 and RhoA, thereby initiating directional cell migration induced by growth factors. 

On epidermal growth factor (EGF) or platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) stimulation, TNS3 and PTEN are phosphorylated at specific Thr residues, which trigger the rearrangement of the TNS3–DLC1 and PTEN–PI3K complexes into the TNS3–PI3K and PTEN–DLC1 complexes. 

Subsequently, the TNS3–PI3K complex translocates to the leading edge of a migrating cell to promote Rac1 activation, whereas PTEN–DLC1 translocates to the posterior for localized RhoA activation. 

This work identifies a core signalling mechanism by which an external motility stimulus is coupled to the spatiotemporal activation of Rac1 and RhoA to drive directional cell migration.