The Ras-related protein Cdc42 plays a role in yeast cell budding and polarity. Two related proteins, Rac1 and RhoA, promote formation in mammalian cells of membrane ruffles and stress fibers, respectively, which contain actin microfilaments. We now show that microinjection of the related human Cdc42Hs into Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts induced the formation of peripheral actin microspikes, determined by staining with phalloidin. A proportion of these microspikes was found to be components of filopodia, as analyzed by time-lapse phase-contrast microscopy. The formation of filopodia was also found to be promoted by Cdc42Hs microinjection. This was followed by activation of Rac1-mediated membrane ruffling. Treatment with bradykinin also promoted formation of microspikes and filopodia as well as subsequent effects similar to that seen upon Cdc42Hs microinjection. These effects of bradykinin were specifically inhibited by prior microinjection of dominant negative Cdc42HsT17N, suggesting that bradykinin acts by activating cellular Cdc42Hs. Since filopodia have been ascribed an important sensory function in fibroblasts and are required for guidance of neuronal growth cones, these results indicate that Cdc42Hs plays an important role in determining mammalian cell morphology
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