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Nat Chem Biol. 2013 Jul;9(7):428-36. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1257. Epub 2013 May 19.

Inhibitors that stabilize a closed RAF kinase domain conformation induce dimerization.

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Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, Laboratory of Intracellular Signalling, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


RAF kinases have a prominent role in cancer. Their mode of activation is complex but critically requires dimerization of their kinase domains. Unexpectedly, several ATP-competitive RAF inhibitors were recently found to promote dimerization and transactivation of RAF kinases in a RAS-dependent manner and, as a result, undesirably stimulate RAS/ERK pathway-mediated cell growth. The mechanism by which these inhibitors induce RAF kinase domain dimerization remains unclear. Here we describe bioluminescence resonance energy transfer-based biosensors for the extended RAF family that enable the detection of RAF dimerization in living cells. Notably, we demonstrate the utility of these tools for profiling kinase inhibitors that selectively modulate RAF dimerization and for probing structural determinants of RAF dimerization in vivo. Our findings, which seem generalizable to other kinase families allosterically regulated by kinase domain dimerization, suggest a model whereby ATP-competitive inhibitors mediate RAF dimerization by stabilizing a rigid closed conformation of the kinase domain.

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