Plexins are semaphorin receptors that play essential roles in neuronal axon guidance and in many other important biological processes. Plexin signaling depends on a semaphorin-induced dimerization mechanism, and is modulated by small signaling GTPases of the Rho family, of which RND1 serves as a plexin activator yet its close homolog RhoD an inhibitor. Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations we showed that RND1 reinforces plexin dimerization interface whereas RhoD destabilizes it due to their differential interaction with cell membrane. Upon binding plexin dimers at the Rho-GTPase binding (RBD) domains, RND1 and RhoD interact differently with the inner leaflet of cell membrane, and exert opposite effects on the dimerization interface via an allosteric network involving the RBD domain, RBD linkers, and a buttress segment adjacent to the dimerization interface. The differential membrane interaction is attributed to the fact that, unlike RND1, RhoD features a short C-terminal tail and a positively-charged membrane interface.
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