The long-term goal of this research is to determine the mechanisms of macropinosome formation and maturation. Macropinocytosis is a multistage endocytic process in which large vesicles form from actin-rich, cell surface ruffles. It is a common activity in cells stimulated by growth factors and in cells transformed by oncogenic mutations which increase the activities of type I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) or the GTPase Ras. It is the process by which dendritic cells internalize antigen, the route by which many pathogenic bacteria and viruses enter cells and the mechanism used by Ras-transformed cancer cells to acquire amino acids essential for growth. Despite the importance of macropinocytosis in many cellular activities related to human health, the mechanisms which regulate macropinosome formation are not known. Macropinocytosis occurs by the localized assembly of cup-shaped ruffles which close at their distal margins or fold into intracellular vesicles. PI3K, and the GTPases Ras, Rac and Rab5 contribute to the component movements of macropinocytosis by regulating the activities of each other and of multiple effector enzymes. Recent microscopic studies in the Swanson lab discovered that the growth factor-dependent activation of PI3K, Rac, Ras and Rab5 which accompany macropinosome formation is organized by morphology rather than by the timing of growth factor addition to cells. Enzyme activities associated with each stage of macropinosome formation are contingent on the formation of a complete circular ruffle, which itself may form at various times after growth factor addition. This discovery offers the novel opportunity to analyze growth factor signal transduction cascades under steady state conditions. The objectives of the present work are to define the roles and regulation of PI3K and Ras in macropinosome formation. The central hypothesis is that growth factor signal amplification at steady state is confined to macropinocytic cups and organized into two major signaling nodes by the mutual interactions of PI3K, Ras, Rac and Rab5. This hypothesis will be tested by addressing three specific aims.
Aim 1 will determine the sequence of movements and signals during macropinosome formation in response to growth factors, testing the hypothesis that the movements of macropinocytosis stimulated by different growth factors exhibit a common profile of Ras, Rac, Rab5 and PI3K activities, with varied contributions from other cytoskeletal regulators. The dynamics of the cytoskeleton and related signals will be analyzed during macropinosome formation in macrophages, murine embryonic fibroblasts and human epithelial cells in the continuous presence of their cognate growth factors.
Aim 2 will determine the role of Ras in macropinosome formation, testing the hypothesis that activation of Ras promotes ruffling, macropinosome closure and the maturation of macropinosomes. The contributions of Ras proteins and Ras effectors to the activities of macropinosome-associated signal dynamics will be analyzed by pharmacological, genetic and quantitative fluorescence microscopic methods.
Aim 3 will determine the role of PI3K in macropinosome formation. Pharmacological, genetic and microscopic methods will be used to determine the roles of the PI3K proteins p85? and p110? in 3' phosphoinositide synthesis and the regulation of Ras, Rac and Rab5 in ruffles, macropinocytic cups and macropinosomes. Overall, it is anticipated that quantitative analysis of individual macropinosomes will define the timing and location of regulatory signals during the continuous formation of macropinosomes and identify regulatory interactions essential to each stage of macropinosome formation. The impact of this research for human health is that it will put the regulation of medically important signal proteins PI3K and Ras into the context of an essential and medically relevant cellular process.

Public Health Relevance

This project will analyze a poorly understood cellular drinking process called macropinocytosis, which occurs in many biological activities essential to immunity, infectious diseases and cancer. Quantitative fluorescence microscopy and associated molecular biological methods will be used to define the roles of two proteins which are mutated in many cancer cells and which are essential to macropinocytosis: Ras and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase. The impact of these studies is that it will place the regulation of these medically important signaling proteins into the context of an essential and medically relevant cellular process, which should lead to novel therapeutic strategies for many diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular and Integrative Signal Transduction Study Section (MIST)
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Dunsmore, Sarah
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Medicine
Ann Arbor
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