Function of Ahnak protein in aortic smooth muscle cell migration through Rac activation

Hee Jung Lim, Dong Hoon Kang, Jung Mi Lim, Dong Min Kang, Je Kyung Seong, Sang Won Kang, Yun Soo Bae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


AimsAhnak protein acts as a scaffold protein networking phospholipase C-γ and protein kinase C-α, which subsequently stimulate an extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk) pathway. In mouse aortic smooth muscle cells (ASMCs), the activation of the signalling cascade ultimately promotes the cell migration through an unknown mechanism. We aimed to dissect the Ahnak-mediated cell signalling network involved in the migration of ASMCs.Methods and resultsMigration of ASMCs from wild-type mice was significantly increased by platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) stimulation in transwell chamber and wound-healing assays, whereas migration of ASMCs from Ahnak knockout mice was reduced. Consistently, stimulation of wild-type ASMCs with PDGF resulted in Rac activation-mediated lamellipodial protrusion in migrating cells. In contrast, Ahnak knockout ASMCs displayed lower activation of Rac in response to PDGF and slow lamellipodial protrusion rate and cell migration. Ahnak signalling complex was analysed by immunoprecipitation with antibody to p21-activated protein kinase (PAK). Ahnak protein was shown to function as the signalling scaffold interacting with the multiple protein complex of Erk, PAK, and p21-activated kinase-interacting exchange factor β. The proposed role of Ahnak in cell migration was examined using a restenosis model in which the carotid arteries of mice were subjected to post-ligation injury. We show neointimal formation and SMC migration after ligation injury in Ahnak knockout mice were significantly retarded compared with wild-type mice.ConclusionAhnak protein plays an important scaffolding function connecting Erk and Rac activation in PDGF-dependent migration of ASMC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-310
Number of pages9
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the World Class University program (grant R15-2006-020-00000-0), by the Drug Target Validation program (grant number 2009-0093987) of Korea Research Foundation, by the Korea Health 21 R&D Project (grant number A084614) from Ministry of Health and Welfare. H.J.L. and J.M.L. are a recipient of BK21 scholarship.


  • Ahnak
  • Migration
  • Rac
  • Restenosis
  • Smooth muscle cells


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