Establishment of epithelial polarity - GEF who's minding the GAP?

Siu P. Ngok, Wan Hsin Lin, Panos Z. Anastasiadis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Cell polarization is a fundamental process that underlies epithelial morphogenesis, cell motility, cell division and organogenesis. Loss of polarity predisposes tissues to developmental disorders and contributes to cancer progression. The formation and establishment of epithelial cell polarity is mediated by the cooperation of polarity protein complexes, namely the Crumbs, partitioning defective (Par) and Scribble complexes, with Rho family GTPases, including RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42. The activation of different GTPases triggers distinct downstream signaling pathways to modulate protein-protein interactions and cytoskeletal remodeling. The spatio-temporal activation and inactivation of these small GTPases is tightly controlled by a complex interconnected network of different regulatory proteins, including guanine-nucleotide-exchange factors (GEFs), GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs), and guaninenucleotide- dissociation inhibitors (GDIs). In this Commentary, we focus on current understanding on how polarity complexes interact with GEFs and GAPs to control the precise location and activation of Rho GTPases (Crumbs for RhoA, Par for Rac1, and Scribble for Cdc42) to promote apical-basal polarization in mammalian epithelial cells. The mutual exclusion of GTPase activities, especially that of RhoA and Rac1, which is well established, provides a mechanism through which polarity complexes that act through distinct Rho GTPases function as cellular rheostats to finetune specific downstream pathways to differentiate and preserve the apical and basolateral domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3205-3215
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2014


  • Cell adhesion
  • Cell polarity
  • Crumbs
  • Par3
  • Rho GTPase
  • Scribble

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Establishment of epithelial polarity - GEF who's minding the GAP?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this