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J Cell Biochem. 2006 Feb 1;97(2):412-22.

Prenylation is not necessary for endogenous Ras activation in non-malignant cells.

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Department of Renal Medicine, King's College London, Bessemer Road, London SE5 9PJ, United Kingdom.


Ras monomeric GTPases are pivotal to many core cellular processes such as proliferation and differentiation. The post-translational prenylation of Ras with a farnesyl or a geranylgeranyl moiety is thought to be critical for its membrane binding and consequent signaling activity. Inhibitors of Ras prenylation have an anti-proliferative effect in some Ras-transformed cells. We present a study of the effects of prenylation inhibitors on endogenous, wild-type Ras in three renal cell types, namely primary adult human renal fibroblasts, primary adult human mesangial cells, and a primate renal fibroblast cell line (Vero cells). We have previously demonstrated that Ras is necessary for normal proliferation in these cells. Here we show that Ras is farnesylated and not geranylgeranylated in all three cell types. Furthermore, inhibiting Ras farnesylation has no effect on cell proliferation or Ras activation. Although inhibiting geranylgeranylation in these cells does inhibit proliferation, this is through an Ras-independent mechanism. Non-prenylated Ras is able to localize to the plasma membrane, bind Raf when cells are stimulated by epidermal growth factor or platelet-derived growth factor, and activate the Ras downstream effectors mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphotidylinositol 3-kinase. We conclude that in wild-type cells, endogenous Ras does not need to be prenylated to be active.

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