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Neuroscientist. 2011 Feb;17(1):54-78. doi: 10.1177/1073858410365562. Epub 2010 Apr 29.

Ras and Rap signaling in synaptic plasticity and mental disorders.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.


The Ras family GTPases (Ras, Rap1, and Rap2) and their downstream mitogen-activated protein kinases (ERK, JNK, and p38MAPK) and PI3K signaling cascades control various physiological processes. In neuronal cells, recent studies have shown that these parallel cascades signal distinct forms of AMPA-sensitive glutamate receptor trafficking during experience-dependent synaptic plasticity and adaptive behavior. Interestingly, both hypo- and hyperactivation of Ras/ Rap signaling impair the capacity of synaptic plasticity, underscoring the importance of a "happy-medium" dynamic regulation of the signaling. Moreover, accumulating reports have linked various genetic defects that either up- or down-regulate Ras/Rap signaling with several mental disorders associated with learning disability (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, Angelman syndrome, autism, cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome, Coffin-Lowry syndrome, Costello syndrome, Cowden and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndromes, fragile X syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, Noonan syndrome, schizophrenia, tuberous sclerosis, and X-linked mental retardation), highlighting the necessity of happy-medium dynamic regulation of Ras/Rap signaling in learning behavior. Thus, the recent advances in understanding of neuronal Ras/Rap signaling provide a useful guide for developing novel treatments for mental diseases.

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