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Mol Cell Biol. 2002 Mar;22(5):1589-606.

Cellular N-Ras promotes cell survival by downregulation of Jun N-terminal protein kinase and p38.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


Cellular N-Ras provides a steady-state antiapoptotic signal, at least partially through the regulation of phosphorylated Akt and Bad levels. Fibroblasts lacking c-N-Ras expression are highly sensitive to the induction of apoptosis by a variety of agents. Reduction of pBad and pAkt levels using a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor was not sufficient to sensitize the control cell population to the high level of apoptosis observed in the N-Ras knockout cell lines, suggesting that c-N-Ras provides at least one other antiapoptotic signal. Stimulation of the control cells with apoptotic agents results in a transient increase in Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK)/p38 activity that decreased to baseline levels during the time course of the experiments. In all cases, however, sustained JNK/p38 activity was observed in cells lacking c-N-Ras expression. This correlated with sustained levels of phosphorylated MKK4 and MKK3/6, upstream activators of JNK and p38, respectively. Mimicking the sustained activation of JNK in the control cells did result in increasing their sensitivity to apoptotic agents, suggesting that prolonged JNK activity is a proapoptotic event. We also examined the potential downstream c-N-Ras targets that might be involved in regulating the duration of the JNK/p38 signal. Only the RalGDS 37G-N-Ras protein protected the N-Ras knockout cells from apoptosis and restored transient rather than sustained JNK activation. These data suggest that cellular N-Ras provides an antiapoptotic signal through at least two distinct mechanisms, one which regulates steady-state pBad and pAkt levels and one which regulates the duration of JNK/p38 activity following an apoptotic challenge.

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