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Methods. 2005 Oct;37(2):138-45.

Analysis of Ras and Rap activation in living cells using fluorescent Ras binding domains.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Ras GTPases regulate cellular growth and differentiation and are modulated by myriad stimuli including growth factors, cytokines, antigens, and UV irradiation. Ras GTPases are molecular switches that are active when GTP-bound and inactive when GDP-bound. The ability of these GTPases to signal requires that the GTP-bound form engage downstream effectors, interactions that occur only on the cytosolic surface of cellular membranes. Ras family proteins include H-Ras, N-Ras, K-Ras, and Rap1. Insight into the regulation and signaling properties of these molecules has come largely from in vitro studies relying on cellular extracts prepared following cellular stimulation. Since Ras GTPases are expressed on multiple cellular compartments that include the plasma membrane, vesicles derived from the plasma membrane, and other internal membranes such as the ER and Golgi complex, analysis of how their spatial distribution modulates signaling has remained unknown. We have developed fluorescent, GFP-based probes capable of selectively binding GTP-bound Ras or Rap1 in living cells. We have used these reporters to examine sites of cellular activation of Ras and Rap1 during growth factor stimulation. These studies have revealed new insights into the platforms from which these GTPases signal and have led to the hypothesis that GTPase signaling is modulated in a compartmentalized fashion. Here, we describe the design and implementation of fluorescent probes for Ras and Rap1.

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