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Mol Cell Biol. 1993 Nov;13(11):6615-20.

Reconstitution of the Raf-1-MEK-ERK signal transduction pathway in vitro.

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Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Richmond, California 94806.

Erratum in

  • Mol Cell Biol 1994 Mar;14(3):2223-4.


Raf-1 is a serine/threonine kinase which is essential in cell growth and differentiation. Tyrosine kinase oncogenes and receptors and p21ras can activate Raf-1, and recent studies have suggested that Raf-1 functions upstream of MEK (MAP/ERK kinase), which phosphorylates and activates ERK. To determine whether or not Raf-1 directly activates MEK, we developed an in vitro assay with purified recombinant proteins. Epitope-tagged versions of Raf-1 and MEK and kinase-inactive mutants of each protein were expressed in Sf9 cells, and ERK1 was purified as a glutathione S-transferase fusion protein from bacteria. Raf-1 purified from Sf9 cells which had been coinfected with v-src or v-ras was able to phosphorylate kinase-active and kinase-inactive MEK. A kinase-inactive version of Raf-1 purified from cells that had been coinfected with v-src or v-ras was not able to phosphorylate MEK. Raf-1 phosphorylation of MEK activated it, as judged by its ability to stimulate the phosphorylation of myelin basic protein by glutathione S-transferase-ERK1. We conclude that MEK is a direct substrate of Raf-1 and that the activation of MEK by Raf-1 is due to phosphorylation by Raf-1, which is sufficient for MEK activation. We also tested the ability of protein kinase C to activate Raf-1 and found that, although protein kinase C phosphorylation of Raf-1 was able to stimulate its autokinase activity, it did not stimulate its ability to phosphorylate MEK.

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