The C-terminus of the oncoprotein TGAT is necessary for plasma membrane association and efficient RhoA-mediated signaling

J. van Unen, D. Botman, T. Yin, Y. I. Wu, M. A. Hink, T. W.J. Gadella, M. Postma*, J. Goedhart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Rho guanine exchange factors (RhoGEFs) control cellular processes such as migration, adhesion and proliferation. Alternative splicing of the RhoGEF Trio produces TGAT. The RhoGEF TGAT is an oncoprotein with constitutive RhoGEF activity. We investigated whether the subcellular location of TGAT is critical for its RhoGEF activity. Methods: Since plasma membrane associated RhoGEFs are particularly effective at activating RhoA, plasma membrane localization of TGAT was examined. To this end, we developed a highly sensitive image analysis method to quantitatively measure plasma membrane association. The method requires a cytoplasmic marker and a plasma membrane marker, which are co-imaged with the tagged protein of interest. Linear unmixing is performed to determine the plasma membrane and cytoplasmic component in the fluorescence signal of protein of interest. Results: The analysis revealed that wild-type TGAT is partially co-localized with the plasma membrane. Strikingly, cysteine TGAT-mutants lacking one or more putative palmitoylation sites in the C-tail, still showed membrane association. In contrast, a truncated variant, lacking the last 15 amino acids, TGATΔ15, lost membrane association. We show that membrane localization of TGAT was responsible for high RhoGEF activity by using a RhoA FRET-sensor and by determining F-actin levels. Mutants of TGAT that still maintained membrane association showed similar activity as wild-type TGAT. In contrast, the activity was abrogated for the cytoplasmic TGATΔ15 variant. Synthetic recruitment of TGATΔ15 to membranes confirmed that TGAT effectively activates RhoA at the plasma membrane. Conclusion: Together, these results show that membrane association of TGAT is critical for its activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalBMC Cell Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


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