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J Cell Biol. 2008 Mar 10;180(5):947-55. doi: 10.1083/jcb.200709069.

Essential role of B-Raf in oligodendrocyte maturation and myelination during postnatal central nervous system development.

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Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, 1030 Vienna, Austria.


Mutations in the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, particularly in the mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase (MEK) activator B-Raf, are associated with human tumorigenesis and genetic disorders. Hence, B-Raf is a prime target for molecule-based therapies, and understanding its essential biological functions is crucial for their success. B-Raf is expressed preferentially in cells of neuronal origin. Here, we show that in mice, conditional ablation of B-Raf in neuronal precursors leads to severe dysmyelination, defective oligodendrocyte differentiation, and reduced ERK activation in brain. Both B-Raf ablation and chemical inhibition of MEK impair oligodendrocyte differentiation in vitro. In glial cell cultures, we find B-Raf in a complex with MEK, Raf-1, and kinase suppressor of Ras. In B-Raf-deficient cells, more Raf-1 is recruited to MEK, yet MEK/ERK phosphorylation is impaired. These data define B-Raf as the rate-limiting MEK/ERK activator in oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination and have implications for the design and use of Raf inhibitors.

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