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J Biol Chem. 1999 Jun 11;274(24):17164-70.

Four human ras homologs differ in their abilities to activate Raf-1, induce transformation, and stimulate cell motility.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Human cells contain four homologous Ras proteins, but it is unknown whether each of these Ras proteins participates in distinct signal transduction cascades or has different biological functions. To directly address these issues, we assessed the relative ability of constitutively active (G12V) versions of each of the four Ras homologs to activate the effector protein Raf-1 in vivo. In addition, we compared their relative abilities to induce transformed foci, enable anchorage-independent growth, and stimulate cell migration. We found a distinct hierarchy between the four Ras homologs in each of the parameters studied. The hierarchies were as follows: for Raf-1 activation, Ki-Ras 4B > Ki-Ras 4A >>> N-Ras > Ha-Ras; for focus formation, Ha-Ras >/= Ki-Ras 4A >>> N-Ras = Ki-Ras 4B; for anchorage-independent growth, Ki-Ras 4A >/= N-Ras >>> Ki-Ras 4B = Ha-Ras = no growth; and for cell migration, Ki-Ras 4B >>> Ha-Ras > N-Ras = Ki-Ras 4A = no migration. Our results indicate that the four Ras homologs significantly differ in their abilities to activate Raf-1 and induce distinctly different biological responses. These studies, in conjunction with our previous report that demonstrated that the Ras homologs can be differentially activated by upstream guanine nucleotide exchange factors (Jones, M. K., and Jackson, J. H. (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 1782-1787), indicate that each of the four Ras proteins may qualitatively or quantitatively participate in distinct signaling cascades and have significantly different biological roles in vivo. Importantly, these studies also suggest for the first time that the distinct and likely cooperative biological functions of the Ki-ras-encoded Ki-Ras 4A and Ki-Ras 4B proteins may help explain why constitutively activating mutations of Ki-ras, but not N-ras or Ha-ras, are frequently detected in human carcinomas.

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