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Biochem Soc Trans. 2012 Feb;40(1):67-72. doi: 10.1042/BST20110621.

Regulation of MEK/ERK pathway output by subcellular localization of B-Raf.

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Department of Biochemistry, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK.


The strength and duration of intracellular signalling pathway activation is a key determinant of the biological outcome of cells in response to extracellular cues. This has been particularly elucidated for the Ras/Raf/MEK [mitogen-activated growth factor/ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) kinase]/ERK signalling pathway with a number of studies in fibroblasts showing that sustained ERK signalling is a requirement for S-phase entry, whereas transient ERK signalling does not have this capability. A major unanswered question, however, is how a cell can sustain ERK activation, particularly when ERK-specific phosphatases are transcriptionally up-regulated by the pathway itself. A major point of ERK regulation is at the level of Raf, and, to sustain ERK activation in the presence of ERK phosphatases, sustained Raf activation is a requirement. Three Raf proteins exist in mammals, and the activity of all three is induced following growth factor stimulation of cells, but only B-Raf activity is maintained at later time points. This observation points to B-Raf as a regulator of sustained ERK activation. In the present review, we consider evidence for a link between B-Raf and sustained ERK activation, focusing on a potential role for the subcellular localization of B-Raf in this key physiological event.

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