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Endocrinology. 2006 Feb;147(2):1014-9. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

BRAF mediates RET/PTC-induced mitogen-activated protein kinase activation in thyroid cells: functional support for requirement of the RET/PTC-RAS-BRAF pathway in papillary thyroid carcinogenesis.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Ohio 45267-0547, USA.


In human papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs), mutations of RET/PTC, NTRK, RAS, or BRAF are found in about two thirds of cases with practically no overlap, providing genetic evidence that constitutive signaling along RET-RAS-BRAF-MAPK is key to their development. The requirement for BRAF in RET/PTC-mediated MAPK activation and gene expression has not been tested functionally. There are three RAF isoforms: ARAF, BRAF, and CRAF. Compared with the others, ARAF is a much weaker stimulator of MAPK. To determine the key RAF isoform mediating RET/PTC-induced ERK phosphorylation, we stably transfected doxycycline-inducible RET/PTC3-expressing thyroid PCCL3 cells with small interfering RNA vectors to induce selective knockdown of BRAF or CRAF. Conditional RET/PTC3 expression induced comparable ERK phosphorylation in CRAF knockdown and control cells but negligible ERK phosphorylation in BRAF knockdown cells. Selective knockdown of BRAF prevented RET/PTC-dependent down-regulation of the sodium iodide symporter, a gene that confers key biological effects of RET/PTC in PTCs. Moreover, microarray analysis revealed numerous RET/PTC-regulated genes showing requirement of BRAF for appropriate expression. These data indicate that BRAF is required for RET/PTC-induced MAPK activation in thyroid cells and support the notion that BRAF inactivation may be an attractive target for PTCs.

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