Background: The complex of Dock180/ELMO1 that functions as a bipartite guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Rac is essential for diverse physiological and pathological processes of cells such as cell migration, phagocytosis, and invasion of cancer cells. Among the Sr. -family tyrosine kinases (SFKs), it has been reported that Hck directly phosphorylates ELMO1, regulating phagocytosis by promoting activation of Rac1; however, the involvement of other SFKs in ELMO1 phosphorylation has remained unknown. Here, we identified novel tyrosine (Y) residues of ELMO1 phosphorylated by SFKs, and examined the effects on Rac1 activity, cell adhesion, spreading, and cell motility on extracellular matrix (ECM). Results: In this study, we unveiled that Sr. and Fyn can induce tyrosine phosphorylation of ELMO1 in in vivo and in vitro phosphorylation assays. Mutational analyses identified both Y720 and Y724 residues of ELMO1 as Sr. -mediated phosphorylation sites, preferentially on Y724. Single substitution of Y724 to Phe abrogated Rac1 activation triggered by Sr. . To elucidate the biological function of pY724, we established NIH3T3 cells stably expressing wild-type ELMO1 or its Y724F mutant together with Dock180. Among them, Y724-deficient cells exhibited a depletion of Rac1 activity with diminished phosphorylation of ELMO1 even upon the ECM-stimulation. It is noteworthy that NIH3T3 cells with ELMO1 Y724F were strikingly defective to promote cell spreading on fibronectin-coated dish, concomitantly exhibiting immature assemblies of actin stress fibers and focal adhesions. Eventually, ELMO1 Y724F significantly impaired cell migration. Conclusion: These results define that Sr. -mediated Y724 phosphorylation in ELMO1 plays a critical role for cell spreading via activation of Rac1, leading to promotion of cell migration. As the overexpression and/or hyperactivation of Sr. have been shown in a wide variety of human cancers, Sr. -mediated phosphorylation of Y724 in ELMO1 may regulate cancer cell adhesion to the ECM, invasion into surrounding tissues, and subsequent distant metastasis.
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