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Cancer Res. 2012 May 15;72(10):2457-67. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-2612.

A comprehensive survey of Ras mutations in cancer.

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Physiological Laboratory, Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Institute of Translational Research, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


All mammalian cells express 3 closely related Ras proteins, termed H-Ras, K-Ras, and N-Ras, that promote oncogenesis when they are mutationally activated at codon 12, 13, or 61. Although there is a high degree of similarity among the isoforms, K-Ras mutations are far more frequently observed in cancer, and each isoform displays preferential coupling to particular cancer types. We examined the mutational spectra of Ras isoforms curated from large-scale tumor profiling and found that each isoform exhibits surprisingly distinctive codon mutation and amino-acid substitution biases. These findings were unexpected given that these mutations occur in regions that share 100% amino-acid sequence identity among the 3 isoforms. Of importance, many of these mutational biases were not due to differences in exposure to mutagens, because the patterns were still evident when compared within specific cancer types. We discuss potential genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, as well as isoform-specific differences in protein structure and signaling, that may promote these distinct mutation patterns and differential coupling to specific cancers.

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