p21-activated kinase 1 phosphorylates and regulates 14-3-3 binding to GEF-H1, a microtubule-localized Rho exchange factor.
GEF-H1 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Rho whose activity is regulated through a cycle of microtubule binding and release. Here we identify a region in the carboxyl terminus of GEF-H1 that is important for suppression of its guanine nucleotide exchange activity by microtubules. This portion of the protein includes a coiled-coil motif, a proline-rich motif that may interact with Src homology 3 domain-containing proteins, and a potential binding site for 14-3-3 proteins. We identify GEF-H1 as a binding target and substrate for p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1), an effector of Rac and Cdc42 GTPases, using an affinity-based screen and localize a PAK1 phosphorylation site to the inhibitory carboxyl-terminal region of GEF-H1. We show that phosphorylation of GEF-H1 at Ser(885) by PAK1 induces 14-3-3 binding to the exchange factor and relocation of 14-3-3 to microtubules. Phosphorylation of GEF-H1 by PAK may be involved in regulation of GEF-H1 activity and may serve to coordinate Rho-, Rac-, and Cdc42-mediated signaling pathways.