Phosphatidic acid (PA) is a pleiotropic lipid second messenger in mammalian cells. We report here that extracellular PA acts as a leukocyte chemoattractant, as membrane-soluble dioleoyl-PA (DOPA) elicits actin polymerization and chemotaxis of human neutrophils and differentiated proleukemic HL-60 cells. We show that the mechanism for this involves the S6 kinase (S6K) signaling enzyme. Chemotaxis was inhibited >90% by the S6K inhibitors rapamycin and bisindolylmaleimide and by S6K1 silencing using double-stranded RNA. However, it was only moderately (∼30%) inhibited by mTOR siRNA, indicating the presence of an mTOR-independent mechanism for S6K. Exogenous PA led to robust time- and dose-dependent increases in S6K enzymatic activity and Thr421/Ser424 phosphorylation, further supporting a PA/S6K connection. We also investigated whether intracellular PA production affects cell migration. Overexpression of phospholipase D2 (PLD2) and, to a lesser extent, PLD1, resulted in elevation of both S6K activity and chemokinesis, whereas PLD silencing was inhibitory. Because the lipase-inactive PLD2 mutants K444R and K758R neither activated S6K nor induced chemotaxis, intracellular PA is needed for this form of cell migration. Lastly, we demonstrated a connection between extracellular and intracellular PA. Using an enhanced green fluorescent protein-derived PA sensor (pEGFP-Spo20PABD), we showed that exogenous PA or PA generated in situ by bacterial (Streptomyces chromofuscus) PLD enters the cell and accumulates in vesicle-like cytoplasmic structures. In summary, we report the discovery of PA as a leukocyte chemoattractant via cell entry and activation of S6K to mediate the cytoskeletal actin polymerization and leukocyte chemotaxis required for the immune function of these cells
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