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J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 29;275(39):30740-5.

Single cell Ras-GTP analysis reveals altered Ras activity in a subpopulation of neurofibroma Schwann cells but not fibroblasts.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267-0521, USA.


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common genetic disorder characterized by multiple neurofibromas, peripheral nerve tumors containing mainly Schwann cells and fibroblasts. The NF1 gene encodes neurofibromin, a tumor suppressor postulated to function in part as a Ras GTPase-activating protein. The roles of different cell types and of elevated Ras-GTP in neurofibroma formation are unclear. To determine which neurofibroma cell type has altered Ras-GTP regulation, we developed an immunocytochemical assay for active, GTP-bound Ras. In NIH 3T3 cells, the assay detected overexpressed, constitutively activated K-, N-, and Ha-Ras and insulin-induced endogenous Ras-GTP. In dissociated neurofibroma cells from NF1 patients, Ras-GTP was elevated in Schwann cells but not fibroblasts. Twelve to 62% of tumor Schwann cells showed elevated Ras-GTP, unexpectedly revealing neurofibroma Schwann cell heterogeneity. Increased basal Ras-GTP did not correlate with increased cell proliferation. Normal human Schwann cells, however, did not demonstrate elevated basal Ras activity. Furthermore, compared with cells from wild type littermates, Ras-GTP was elevated in all mouse Nf1(-/-) Schwann cells but never in Nf1(-/-) mouse fibroblasts. Our results indicate that Ras activity is detectably increased in only some neurofibroma Schwann cells and suggest that neurofibromin is not an essential regulator of Ras activity in fibroblasts.

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