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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 3;98(14):7783-8. Epub 2001 Jun 26.

Raf-1 promotes cell survival by antagonizing apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 through a MEK-ERK independent mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The Ser/Thr kinase Raf-1 is a protooncogene product that is a central component in many signaling pathways involved in normal cell growth and oncogenic transformation. Upon activation, Raf-1 phosphorylates mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK), which in turn activates mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinases (MAPK/ERKs), leading to the propagation of signals. Depending on specific stimuli and cellular environment, the Raf-1--MEK--ERK cascade regulates diverse cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Here, we describe a MEK--ERK-independent prosurvival function of Raf-1. We found that Raf-1 interacts with the proapoptotic, stress-activated protein kinase ASK1 (apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1) in vitro and in vivo. Deletion analysis localized the Raf-1 binding site to the N-terminal regulatory fragment of ASK1. This interaction allows Raf-1 to act independently of the MEK--ERK pathway to inhibit apoptosis. Furthermore, catalytically inactive forms of Raf-1 can mimic the wild-type effect, raising the possibility of a kinase-independent function of Raf-1. Thus, Raf-1 may promote cell survival through its protein-protein interactions in addition to its established MEK kinase function.

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