GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

David G. Lambright, Ph.D.


Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors, Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins, Vesicular Transport Proteins, ADP-Ribosylation Factors, rab GTP-Binding Proteins, Catalytic Domain


Vesicle budding, membrane trafficking, and lipid metabolism depend on the switching of Arf and Rab GTPases from the inactive GDP bound state to the active GTP bound state. However, Arf and Rab GTPases have intrinsic rates of GDP to GTP exchange that are much slower (hours to days) than the time scale of the relevant trafficking processes (seconds or less). In cells, the activation of Arf and Rab GTPases is tightly regulated by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) with Sec7 or Vps9 domains, respectively.

Full length Cytohesins, which have a domain architecture consisting of heptad repeats, a Sec7 domain, a pleckstrin homology (PH) domain, and a polybasic motif, have 100-fold lower exchange activity than the isolated Sec7 domain. Insights into the low exchange activity were obtained by structural, biochemical and kinetic analyses. It was found that the Sec7-PH domain linker and a C-terminal amphipathic helix physically block the docking sites for the switch regions of Arf GTPases. Mutations within either element result in partial or complete relief of autoinhibition. Autohibition is also strongly relieved by phosphorylation of protein kinase C (PKC) sites in the polybasic motif of Cytohesin-1 or by phosphoinositide head group-dependent binding of active Arf6.

Despite unrelated folds, Sec7 and Vps9 domains engage cognate GTPases in a strikingly similar manner and supply a critical acidic residue that interacts with an invariant lysine residues from phosphate binding (P) loop of the GTPase in the nucleotide free complex. The key acidic residues have also been proposed to disrupt the Mg2+ binding site; however, it is not known whether disruption of Mg2+ binding contributes to the rate limiting step for nucleotide release. To investigate the kinetic mechanism for catalysis of nucleotide exchange in the absence of autoinhibitory interactions, a detailed stopped flow kinetic analysis of the intrinsic and GEF mediated exchange reactions was conducted for the isolated catalytic cores. Using three different fluorescence methods to monitor Mg2+ dissociation, formation of the nucleotide free intermediate, and subsequent nucleotide binding, the catalytic cores of Cytohesin-1 and Rabex-5 were found to robustly accelerate nucleotide exchange on Arf1 and Rab5, respectively, by at least 105- fold at physiological concentrations of Mg2+. The acceleration of nucleotide exchange was reduced by roughly an order of magnitude at sub-micromolar concentrations of Mg2+. In addition, the Cytohesin-1 and Rabex-5 catalytic cores have similarly high catalytic efficiencies (kcat/KM) as well as high lower limits on both the rate (kcat) and steady state (KM) constants for GDP release at physiological as well as low Mg2+ concentration. The limits on kcat and KM are comparable to the highest values reported for other well characterized GEFs and likely reflect dual requirements of membrane targeting and autoregulatory mechanisms for tight control of catalytic output. These results provide a solid structural and mechanistic foundation for future experiments to investigate the spatial-temporal dynamics of Cytohesin and Rabex-5 activation in cellular contexts.



Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author, with all rights reserved.