Roles of Alix in regulating cell morphology

Shujuan Pan, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Mammalian Alix (ALG2-interacting protein X) is a conserved adaptor protein that is involved in endosomal trafficking, apoptosis and growth factor receptor turnover. Accumulating evidence also indicates that Alix plays roles in promoting/maintaining spread and aligned fibroblast morphology in monolayer culture. Since cell morphology is determined by the structure and dynamics of an integrin-mediated transmembrane protein network that links extracellular matrix to intracellular cytoskeleton, we hypothesized that Alix plays direct or indirect roles in regulating certain components or steps in this transmembrane protein network. To test this hypothesis, we first examined the subcellular localization of Alix and discovered that, as a predominantly cytoplasmic protein, Alix is also present on the substratum/cell surface and in the conditioned medium of fibroblast cultures. Further, precoating of culture surfaces with recombinant Alix promotes spreading and fibronectin assembly to NIH/3T3 cells, and siRNA-mediated Alix knockdown in W138 cells has the opposite effects. These findings indicate the extracellular functions of Alix in regulating cell spreading and extracellular matrix assembly. In a separate study, we analyzed Alix immunocomplexes from normal fibroblast W138 cells by mass spectrometry and identified actin as a major partner protein of Alix. Follow-up studies demonstrated that Alix preferentially binds filamentous actin (F-actin) in vitro and is required for maintaining normal F-actin content and proper actin cytoskeleton assembly in W138 cells. These findings establish direct and essential roles of Alix in regulating actin cytoskeleton. Finally, we investigated the effects of Alix knockdown on the activation and subcellular localization of FAK and Pyk2, the focal adhesion kinases required for cell spreading/migration by promoting turnover of integrin-mediated cell adhesions. We discovered that Alix knockdown inhibits FAK and Pyk2 localizations to focal adhesions or plasma membrane, in association with characteristics of reduced turnover of focal adhesions. These findings reveal a positive role of Alix in focal adhesion turnover. Based on these results, we conclude that Alix targets both intracellularly and extracellularly components to regulate extracellular matrix remodeling, actin cytoskeleton assembly and focal adhesion turnover. A combination of these three functions of Alix explains its crucial role in regulating spread and aligned fibroblast morphology.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Pan, Shujuan, "Roles of Alix in regulating cell morphology" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3195266.