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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 May 24;102(21):7577-82. Epub 2005 May 12.

The frequencies of calcium oscillations are optimized for efficient calcium-mediated activation of Ras and the ERK/MAPK cascade.

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Henry Wellcome Integrated Signalling Laboratories, Department of Biochemistry, School of Medical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK.


Ras proteins are binary switches that, by cycling through inactive GDP- and active GTP-bound conformations, regulate multiple cellular signaling pathways, including those that control growth and differentiation. For some time, it has been known that receptor-mediated increases in the concentration of intracellular free calcium ([Ca(2+)](i)) can modulate Ras activation. Increases in [Ca(2+)](i) often occur as repetitive Ca(2+) spikes or oscillations. Induced by electrical or receptor stimuli, these repetitive Ca(2+) oscillations increase in frequency with the amplitude of receptor stimuli, a phenomenon critical for the induction of selective cellular functions. Here, we show that Ca(2+) oscillations are optimized for Ca(2+)-mediated activation of Ras and signaling through the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade. We present additional evidence that Ca(2+) oscillations reduce the effective Ca(2+) threshold for the activation of Ras and that the oscillatory frequency is optimized for activation of Ras and the ERK/MAPK pathway. Our results describe a hitherto unrecognized link between complex Ca(2+) signals and the modulation of the Ras/ERK/MAPK signaling cascade.

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