It is clear that RhoA activates the DRF (diaphanous-related formin) mDia2 by disrupting the molecular interaction between the DAD (diaphanous autoregulatory domain) and the DID (diaphanous inhibitory domain). Previous studies indicate that a basic motif within the DAD contributes to mDia2 auto-inhibition, and results shown in the present study suggest these residues bind a conserved acidic region within the DID. Furthermore, we demonstrate that mDia2 is phosphorylated by ROCK (Rho-kinase) at two conserved residues (Thr1061 and Ser1070) just C-terminal to the DAD basic region. Phosphomimetic mutations to these residues in the context of the full-length molecule enhanced mDia2 activity as measured by increased actin polymerization, SRF (serum response factor)-dependent smooth muscle-specific gene transcription, and nuclear localization of myocardin-related transcription factor B. Biochemical and functional data indicate that the T1061E/S1070E mutation significantly inhibited the ability of DAD to interact with DID and enhanced mDia2 activation by RhoA. Taken together, the results of the present study indicate that ROCK-dependent phosphorylation of the mDia2 DAD is an important determinant of mDia2 activity and that this signalling mechanism affects actin polymerization and smooth muscle cell-specific gene expression.

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