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Genes Cancer. 2011 Mar;2(3):182-94. doi: 10.1177/1947601911409213.

Ras, an actor on many stages: posttranslational modifications, localization, and site-specified events.

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Instituto de Biomedicina y Biotecnología de Cantabria (IBBTEC), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)-IDICAN-Universidad de Cantabria, Departamento de Biología Molecular, Facultad de Medicina, Cantabria, Spain.


Among the wealth of information that we have gathered about Ras in the past decade, the introduction of the concept of space in the field has constituted a major revolution that has enabled many pieces of the Ras puzzle to fall into place. In the early days, it was believed that Ras functioned exclusively at the plasma membrane. Today, we know that within the plasma membrane, the 3 Ras isoforms-H-Ras, K-Ras, and N-Ras-occupy different microdomains and that these isoforms are also present and active in endomembranes. We have also discovered that Ras proteins are not statically associated with these localizations; instead, they traffic dynamically between compartments. And we have learned that at these localizations, Ras is under site-specific regulatory mechanisms, distinctively engaging effector pathways and switching on diverse genetic programs to generate different biological responses. All of these processes are possible in great part due to the posttranslational modifications whereby Ras proteins bind to membranes and to regulatory events such as phosphorylation and ubiquitination that Ras is subject to. As such, space and these control mechanisms act in conjunction to endow Ras signals with an enormous signal variability that makes possible its multiple biological roles. These data have established the concept that the Ras signal, instead of being one single, homogeneous entity, results from the integration of multiple, site-specified subsignals, and Ras has become a paradigm of how space can differentially shape signaling.


GTPases; Ras; acylation; signal compartmentalization

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