P21 activated kinase (PAK), PAK interacting exchange factor (PIX), and G protein coupled receptor kinase interactor (GIT) compose a highly conserved signaling module controlling cell migrations, immune system signaling, and the formation of the mammalian nervous system. Traditionally, this signaling module is thought to facilitate the function of RAC and CDC-42 GTPases by allowing for the recruitment of a GTPase effector (PAK), a GTPase activator (PIX), and a scaffolding protein (GIT) as a regulated signaling unit to specific subcellular locations. Instead, we report here that this signaling module functions independently of RAC/CDC-42 GTPases in vivo to control the cell shape and migration of the distal tip cells (DTCs) during morphogenesis of the Caenorhabditis elegans gonad. In addition, this RAC/CDC-42-independent PAK pathway functions in parallel to a classical GTPase/PAK pathway to control the guidance aspect of DTC migration. Among the C. elegans PAKs, only PAK-1 functions in the GIT/PIX/PAK pathway independently of RAC/CDC42 GTPases, while both PAK-1 and MAX-2 are redundantly utilized in the GTPase/PAK pathway. Both RAC/CDC42-dependent and -independent PAK pathways function with the integrin receptors, suggesting that signaling through integrins can control the morphology, movement, and guidance of DTC through discrete pathways. Collectively, our results define a new signaling capacity for the GIT/PIX/PAK module that is likely to be conserved in vertebrates and demonstrate that PAK family members, which are redundantly utilized as GTPase effectors, can act non-redundantly in pathways independent of these GTPases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Cancer Research