Research ArticleBiochemistry

Mechanisms of autoregulation of C3G, activator of the GTPase Rap1, and its catalytic deregulation in lymphomas

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Science Signaling  01 Sep 2020:
Vol. 13, Issue 647, eabb7075
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.abb7075

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Activating Rap1 with mutant C3G in lymphoma

The GTPase Rap1 promotes integrin-mediated cell adhesion and is associated with the development of various cancers, including B cell malignancies. Carabias et al. found two missense mutations in the Rap1 activator C3G in non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHLs) from a database of cancer-associated mutations. Examination of the structure of C3G revealed that the basal autoinhibitory structure of the protein is disrupted by these mutations, enabling constitutive activity that promoted Rap1-integrin signaling independently of the normal activation mechanisms for C3G. Developing ways to target C3G in NHL cells may lead to targeted therapeutics for patients with NHL and possibly other cancers.


C3G is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) that regulates cell adhesion and migration by activating the GTPase Rap1. The GEF activity of C3G is stimulated by the adaptor proteins Crk and CrkL and by tyrosine phosphorylation. Here, we uncovered mechanisms of C3G autoinhibition and activation. Specifically, we found that two intramolecular interactions regulate the activity of C3G. First, an autoinhibitory region (AIR) within the central domain of C3G binds to and blocks the catalytic Cdc25H domain. Second, the binding of the protein’s N-terminal domain to its Ras exchanger motif (REM) is required for its GEF activity. CrkL activated C3G by displacing the AIR/Cdc25HD interaction. Two missense mutations in the AIR found in non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, Y554H and M555K, disrupted the autoinhibitory mechanism. Expression of C3G-Y554H or C3G-M555K in Ba/F3 pro–B cells caused constitutive activation of Rap1 and, consequently, the integrin LFA-1. Our findings suggest that sustained Rap1 activation by deregulated C3G might promote progression of lymphomas and that designing therapeutics to target C3G might treat these malignancies.

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