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J Biol Chem. 2007 Sep 7;282(36):26575-90. Epub 2007 Jul 5.

Unique N-region determines low basal activity and limited inducibility of A-RAF kinase: the role of N-region in the evolutionary divergence of RAF kinase function in vertebrates.

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  • 1Institute for Medical Radiation and Cell Research, University of Wuerzburg, 97078 Wuerzburg, Germany.


In mammals the RAF family of serine/threonine kinases consists of three members, A-, B-, and C-RAF. A prominent feature of RAF isoforms regards differences in basal and inducible kinase activities. To elucidate the nature of these differences, we studied the role of the nonconserved residues within the N-region (Negative-charge regulatory region). The nonconserved amino acids in positions -3 and +1 relative to the highly conserved serine 299 in A-RAF and serine 338 in C-RAF have so far not been considered as regulatory residues. Here we demonstrate the essential role of these residues in the RAF activation process. Substitution of tyrosine 296 in A-RAF to arginine led to a constitutively active kinase. In contrast, substitution of glycine 300 by serine (mimicking B- and C-RAF) acts in an inhibitory manner. Consistent with these data, the introduction of glycine in the analogous position of C-RAF (S339G mutant) led to a constitutively active C-RAF kinase. Based on the three-dimensional structure of the catalytic domain of B-RAF and using the sequences of the N-regions of A- and C-RAF, we searched by molecular modeling for the putative contact points between these two moieties. A tight interaction between the N-region residue serine 339 of C-RAF and arginine 398 of the catalytic domain was identified and proposed to inhibit the kinase activity of RAF proteins, because abrogation of this interaction contributes to RAF activation. Furthermore, tyrosine 296 in A-RAF favors a spatial orientation of the N-region segment, which enables a tighter contact to the catalytic domain, whereas a glutamine residue at this position in C-RAF abrogates this interaction. Considering this observation, we suggest that tyrosine 296, which is unique for A-RAF, is a major determinant of the low activating potency of this RAF isoform.

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