RhoA and Rac1 are both required for efficient wound closure of airway epithelial cells

Leena P. Desai, Ashish M. Aryal, Bogdan Ceacareanu, Aviv Hassid, Christopher M. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Repair of the airway epithelium after injury is critical for restoring normal lung. The reepithelialization process involves spreading and migration followed later by cell proliferation. Rho-GTPases are key components of the wound healing process in many different types of tissues, but the specific roles for RhoA and Rac1 vary and have not been identified in lung epithelial cells. We investigated whether RhoA and Rac1 regulate wound closure of bronchial epithelial cells. RhoA and Rac1 proteins were efficiently expressed in a cell line of human bronchial epithelial cells (16HBE) by adenovirus-based gene transfer. We found that both constitutively active RhoA and dominant negative RhoA inhibited wound healing, suggesting that both activation and inhibition of RhoA interfere with normal wound healing. Overexpression of wild-type Rac1 induced upregulation of RhoA, disrupted intercellular junctions, and inhibited wound closure. Dominant negative Rac1 also inhibited wound closure. Inhibition of the downstream effector of RhoA, Rho-kinase, with Y-27632 suppressed actin stress fibers and focal adhesion formation, increased Rac1 activity, and stimulated wound closure. The activity of both RhoA and Rac1 are influenced by the polymerization state of microtubules, and cell migration involves coordinated action of actin and microtubules. Microtubule depolymerization upon nocodazole treatment led to an increase in focal adhesions and decreased wound closure. We conclude that coordination of both RhoA and Rac1 activity contributes to bronchial epithelial wound repair mechanisms in vitro, that inhibition of Rho-kinase accelerates wound closure, and that efficient repair involves intact microtubules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L1134-L1144
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6 31-6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Microtubules
  • Rho-kinase
  • Vinculin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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