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J Biol Chem. 2006 Mar 31;281(13):8917-26. Epub 2006 Jan 17.

Dynamics of the Ras/ERK MAPK cascade as monitored by fluorescent probes.

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Department of Signal Transduction, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Yamadaoka, Suita-shi, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.


To comprehend the Ras/ERK MAPK cascade, which comprises Ras, Raf, MEK, and ERK, several kinetic simulation models have been developed. However, a large number of parameters that are essential for the development of these models are still missing and need to be set arbitrarily. Here, we aimed at collecting these missing parameters using fluorescent probes. First, the levels of the signaling molecules were quantitated. Second, to monitor both the activation and nuclear translocation of ERK, we developed probes based on the principle of fluorescence resonance energy transfer. Third, the dissociation constants of Ras.Raf, Raf.MEK, and MEK.ERK complexes were estimated using a fluorescent tag that can be highlighted very rapidly. Finally, the same fluorescent tag was used to measure the nucleocytoplasmic shuttling rates of ERK and MEK. Using these parameters, we developed a kinetic simulation model consisting of the minimum essential members of the Ras/ERK MAPK cascade. This simple model reproduced essential features of the observed activation and nuclear translocation of ERK. In this model, the concentration of Raf significantly affected the levels of phospho-MEK and phospho-ERK upon stimulation. This prediction was confirmed experimentally by decreasing the level of Raf using the small interfering RNA technique. This observation verified the usefulness of the parameters collected in this study.

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