Regulation of Dendrite Growth by the Cdc42 Activator Zizimin1/Dock9 in Hippocampal Neurons

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Rho family small GTPases are key regulators of morphological changes in neurons. Cdc42, one of the most characterized members of the Rho family of proteins, is involved in axon and dendrite outgrowth through cytoskeletal reorganization. Recent studies have identified Zizimin1, a member of the Dock180-related family of proteins [also called CDM (Ced-5/Dock180/Myoblast city)-zizimin homology (CZH) proteins], as a specific guanine-nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for Cdc42. However, the physiological function of Zizimin1 is totally unknown. In this study, we investigated the role of Zizimin1 in dendrite development in rat hippocampal neurons. In situ hybridization and Western blot analysis showed that Zizimin1 is strongly expressed in the developing brain including in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex in late developmental stages. Overexpression of wild-type Zizimin1 promoted dendrite growth, whereas knockdown of Zizimin1 by short hairpin RNA or expression of a mutant Zizimin1 lacking Cdc42 GEF activity suppressed dendrite growth in primary cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Both the N-terminal CZH1 domain, which is conserved among CZH proteins, and the Pleckstrin homology domain of Zizimin1 are involved in membrane localization, Cdc42 activation, and regulation of dendrite growth. Thus, these results suggest that Zizimin1 plays an important role in dendrite growth in hippocampal neurons through activation of Cdc42.

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