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J Biol Chem. 2001 Sep 14;276(37):34728-37. Epub 2001 Jul 16.

Function of the Rho family GTPases in Ras-stimulated Raf activation.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and The Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0606, USA.


Ras plays an essential role in activation of Raf kinase which is directly responsible for activation of the MEK-ERK kinase pathway. A direct protein-protein interaction between Ras and the N-terminal regulatory domain of Raf is critical for Raf activation. However, association with Ras is not sufficient to activate Raf in vitro, indicating that Ras must activate some other biochemical events leading to activation of Raf. We have observed that RasV12Y32F and RasV12T35S mutants fail to activate Raf, yet retain the ability to interact with Raf. In this report, we showed that RasV12Y32F and RasV12T35S can cooperate with members of the Rho family GTPases to activate Raf while alone the Rho family GTPase is not effective in Raf activation. A dominant negative mutant of Rac or RhoA can block Raf activation by Ras. The effect of Rac or Cdc42 can be substituted by the Pak kinase, which is a direct downstream target of Rac/Cdc42. Furthermore, expression of a kinase inactive mutant of Pak or the N-terminal inhibitory domain of Pak1 can block the effect of Rac or Cdc42. In contrast, Pak appears to play no direct role in relaying the signal from RhoA to Raf, indicating that RhoA utilizes a different mechanism than Rac/Cdc42. Membrane-associated but not cytoplasmic Raf can be activated by Rac or RhoA. Our data support a model by which the Rho family small GTPases play an important role to mediate the activation of Raf by Ras. Ras, at least, has two distinct functions in Raf activation, recruitment of Raf to the plasma membrane by direct binding and stimulation of Raf activating kinases via the Rho family GTPases.

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