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Methods Enzymol. 2008;439:87-102. doi: 10.1016/S0076-6879(07)00407-7.

Analysis of K-Ras phosphorylation, translocation, and induction of apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Cancer Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.


K-Ras is a member of a family of proteins that associate with the plasma membrane by virtue of a lipid modification that inserts into the membrane and a polybasic region that associates with the anionic head groups of inner leaflet phospholipids. In the case of K-Ras, the lipid is a C-terminal farnesyl isoprenoid adjacent to a polylysine sequence. The affinity of K-Ras for the plasma membrane can be modulated by diminishing the net charge of the polybasic region. Among the ways this can be accomplished is phosphorylation by protein kinase C (PKC) of serine 181 within the polybasic region. Phosphorylation at this site regulates a farnesyl-electrostatic switch that controls association of K-Ras with the plasma membrane. Surprisingly, engagement of the farnesyl-electrostatic switch promotes apoptosis. This chapter describes methods for directly analyzing the phosphorylation status of K-Ras using metabolic labeling with (32)P, for indirectly assessing the farnesyl-electrostatic switch by following GFP-tagged K-Ras in live cells, for artificially activating the farnesyl-electrostatic switch by directing the kinase domain of a PKC to activated K-Ras using a Ras-binding domain, and for assessing apoptosis of individual cells using a YFP-tagged caspase 3 biosensor.

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