Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Chen, Songhai

First Committee Member

Fisher, Rory A.

Second Committee Member

Fuentes, Ernesto J.

Third Committee Member

Koland, John G.

Fourth Committee Member

Sigmund, Curt D.

Fifth Committee Member

Strack, Stefan


The Rho family of GTPases plays a crucial role in the regulation of diverse cellular processes, including proliferation and actin cytoskeletal rearrangement to promote cell migration. However, dysregulation of RhoGTPases has been associated with disease, particularly cancers such as leukemia. Despite this, RhoGTPases are rarely mutated in cancer. Rather, dysregulation of their regulatory proteins through mutation or overexpression contributes to disease pathogenesis. RhoGTPases are activated through Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). Although over eighty RhoGEFs have been identified that activate the 25 RhoGTPases, the pathological role of the majority of these proteins remains unclear. Further, whereas the majority of RhoGEFs are activated through tyrosine phosphorylation, a small subset can be activated through heterotrimeric G proteins, including through GΒ;Γ; subunits. However, the mechanism by which GΒ;Γ; induces RhoGEF activation remains unclear.

PLEKHG2 is a Dbl family RhoGEF that was originally identified as a gene upregulated in a leukemia mouse model, and later shown to be activated by heterotrimeric G protein Β;Γ; subunits. However, its function and activation mechanisms remain elusive. Here we show that, as compared to primary human T cells, the expression of PLEKHG2 is upregulated in leukemia cell lines. Downregulation of PLEKHG2 by siRNAs specifically inhibited GΒ;Γ;-stimulated Rac and Cdc42, but not RhoA activation. Consequently, inhibition of PLEKHG2 blocked actin polymerization, protrusion formation, and leukemia cell migration in response to SDF1alpha;. Additional studies indicate that GΒ;Γ; likely activates PLEKHG2 by binding the N-terminus of PLEKHG2. This interaction results in the release of autoinhibition imposed by the C-terminus within a region encompassing the catalytic DH domain. As a result, overexpressing either the N-terminus of PLEKHG2 that binds GΒ;Γ; or the C-terminus that autoinhibits PLEKHG2 blocked GΒ;Γ;-stimulated Rac and Cdc42 activation and the ability of leukemia cell to form membrane protrusions and to migrate. Together, our results have demonstrated that PLEKHG2 functions as a novel GΒ;Γ; -stimulated RhoGEF that could contribute to chemokine-induced leukemia cell dissemination and leukemia pathogenesis.


Chemotaxis, GPCR, G proteins, Heterotrimeric G protein, Leukemia, PLEKHG2


xiii, 115 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 103-115).


Copyright 2013 Caitlin Marie Runne

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