The Ins and Outs of Small GTPase Rac1 in the Vasculature

Goran Marinković, Niels Heemskerk, Jaap D van Buul, Vivian de Waard

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


    The Rho family of small GTPases forms a 20-member family within the Ras superfamily of GTP-dependent enzymes that are activated by a variety of extracellular signals. The most well known Rho family members are RhoA (Ras homolog gene family, member A), Cdc42 (cell division control protein 42), and Rac1 (Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1), which affect intracellular signaling pathways that regulate a plethora of critical cellular functions, such as oxidative stress, cellular contacts, migration, and proliferation. In this review, we describe the current knowledge on the role of GTPase Rac1 in the vasculature. Whereas most recent reviews focus on the role of vascular Rac1 in endothelial cells, in the present review we also highlight the functional involvement of Rac1 in other vascular cells types, namely, smooth muscle cells present in the media and fibroblasts located in the adventitia of the vessel wall. Collectively, this overview shows that Rac1 activity is involved in various functions within one cell type at distinct locations within the cell, and that there are overlapping but also cell type-specific functions in the vasculature. Chronically enhanced Rac1 activity seems to contribute to vascular pathology; however, Rac1 is essential to vascular homeostasis, which makes Rac1 inhibition as a therapeutic option a delicate balancing act.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-102
    Number of pages12
    JournalThe Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

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