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Curr Biol. 1994 Sep 1;4(9):798-806.

The activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase by Ras.

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Protein Phosphorylation Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK.



Activation of the mammalian phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex can play a critical role in transducing growth factor responses. The lipid kinase complex, which is made up of p85 alpha and p110 alpha regulatory and catalytic subunits, becomes associated with a number of activated receptor protein tyrosine kinases, but the mechanism of its activation has not yet been defined. Recent evidence indicates that Ras can bind to the p85 alpha/p110 alpha complex. We describe here the functional regulation of the mammalian phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex by Ras.


Expression of p110 alpha, the catalytic subunit of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, in the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, has been used to demonstrate an inhibitory effect of p85 alpha on p110 alpha activity in intact cells; inhibition did not result from a decrease in p110 alpha expression. In this cellular context, we have investigated the effect of a constitutively active mutant of Ras, v-Ras, either on p85 alpha or p110 alpha-alone, or on the p85 alpha/p110 alpha complex. In the presence of the p85 alpha/p110 alpha complex, v-Ras suppressed cell growth, but an effector-domain mutant of v-Ras did not. The growth-suppressive effect of v-Ras was not seen for any other combination of expressed proteins. The phenotype induced by v-Ras was consistent with activation of the p85 alpha/p110 alpha complex: it was sensitive to the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor, wortmannin, and the cells accumulated 3-phosphorylated polyphosphoinositides. Activation of purified p85 alpha/p110 alpha by purified recombinant Ras in vitro was also demonstrated.


The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex, p85 alpha/p110 alpha, shows a suppressed catalytic function in vivo when compared with free p110 alpha. This complex can, however, be activated by Ras. We suggest that the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase p85 alpha/p110 alpha complex is a downstream effector of Ras.

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