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1.  RalA but Not RalB Enhances Polarized Delivery of Membrane Proteins to the Basolateral Surface of Epithelial Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(13):5746-5756.
RalA and RalB constitute a family of highly similar (85% identity) Ras-related GTPases. Recently, active forms of both RalA and RalB have been shown to bind to the exocyst complex, implicating them in the regulation of cellular secretion. However, we show here that only active RalA enhances the rate of delivery of E-cadherin and other proteins to their site in the basolateral membrane of MDCK cells, consistent with RalA being a regulator of exocyst function. One reason for this difference is that RalA binds more effectively to the exocyst complex than active RalB does both in vivo and in vitro. Another reason is that active RalA localizes to perinuclear recycling endosomes, where regulation of vesicle sorting is thought to take place, while active RalB does not. Strikingly, analysis of chimeras made between RalA and RalB reveals that high-affinity exocyst binding by RalA is due to unique amino acid sequences in RalA that are distal to the common effector-binding domains shared by RalA and RalB. Moreover, these chimeras show that the perinuclear localization of active RalA is due in part to its unique variable domain near the C terminus. This distinct localization appears to be important for RalA effects on secretion because all RalA mutants tested that failed to localize to the perinuclear region also failed to promote basolateral delivery of E-cadherin. Interestingly, one of these inactive mutants maintained binding to the exocyst complex, suggesting that RalA binding to the exocyst is necessary but not sufficient for RalA to promote basolateral delivery of membrane proteins.
PMCID: PMC480895  PMID: 15199131
2.  Activation and Involvement of Ral GTPases in Colorectal Cancer 
Cancer research  2011;71(1):206-215.
Current approaches to block KRAS oncogene function focus on inhibition of K-Ras downstream effector signaling. We evaluated the anti-tumor activity of selumetinib (AZD6244, ARRY-142886), a potent and selective MEK1/2 inhibitor, on a panel of colorectal carcinoma (CRC) cells and found no inhibition of KRAS mutant CRC cell anchorage-independent growth. While AKT activity was elevated in KRAS mutant cells, and PI3K inhibition did impair the growth of MEK inhibitor-insensitive CRC cell lines, concurrent treatment with selumetinib did not provide additional anti-tumor activity. Therefore, we speculated that inhibition of the Ral guanine exchange factor (RalGEF) effector pathway may be a more effective approach for blocking CRC growth. RalGEFs are activators of the related RalA and RalB small GTPases and we found activation of both in CRC cell lines and patient tumors. Interfering RNA stable suppression of RalA expression reduced CRC tumor cell anchorage-independent growth, but surprisingly, stable suppression of RalB greatly enhanced soft agar colony size and formation frequency. Despite their opposing activities, both RalA and RalB regulation of anchorage-independent growth required interaction with RalBP1/RLIP76 and components of the exocyst complex. Interestingly, RalA interaction with the Exo84 but not Sec5 exocyst component was necessary for supporting anchorage-independent growth, whereas RalB interaction with Sec5 but not Exo84 was necessary for inhibition of anchorage-independent growth. We suggest that anti-RalA-selective therapies may provide an effective approach for KRAS mutant CRC.
PMCID: PMC3062918  PMID: 21199803
Ras; MEK; AKT; RalBP1/RLIP76; exocyst
3.  RalB Mobilizes the Exocyst To Drive Cell Migration†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(2):727-734.
The Ras family GTPases RalA and RalB have been defined as central components of the regulatory machinery supporting tumor initiation and progression. Although it is known that Ral proteins mediate oncogenic Ras signaling and physically and functionally interact with vesicle trafficking machinery, their mechanistic contribution to oncogenic transformation is unknown. Here, we have directly evaluated the relative contribution of Ral proteins and Ral effector pathways to cell motility and directional migration. Through loss-of-function analysis, we find that RalA is not limiting for cell migration in normal mammalian epithelial cells. In contrast, RalB and the Sec6/8 complex or exocyst, an immediate downstream Ral effector complex, are required for vectorial cell motility. RalB expression is required for promoting both exocyst assembly and localization to the leading edge of moving cells. We propose that RalB regulation of exocyst function is required for the coordinated delivery of secretory vesicles to the sites of dynamic plasma membrane expansion that specify directional movement.
PMCID: PMC1346891  PMID: 16382162
4.  The Ras-related small GTPases RalA and RalB regulate cellular survival after ionizing radiation 
Oncogenic activation of Ras renders cancer cells resistant to ionizing radiation (IR), but the mechanisms have not been fully characterized. The Ras-like small GTPases, RalA and RalB, are downstream effectors of Ras function and are critical for both tumor growth and survival. The Ral effector RalBP1/RLIP76 mediates survival of mice after whole body irradiation but the role of the Ral GTPases themselves in response to IR is unknown. We have investigated the role of RalA and RalB in cellular responses to IR.
Methods and Materials
RalA, RalB and their major effectors RalBP1 and Sec5 were knocked down by stable expression of shRNAs in the K-Ras-dependent pancreatic cancer-derived cell line MIA PaCa-2. Radiation responses were measured by standard clonogenic survival assays for reproductive survival, γH2AX expression for double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) and PARP cleavage for apoptosis.
Knockdown of K-Ras, RalA or RalB reduced colony-forming ability post-IR and knockdown of either Ral isoform decreased the rate of DSB repair post-IR. However, knockdown of RalB, but not RalA, increased cell death. Surprisingly, neither RalBP1 nor Sec5 suppression affected colony formation post-IR.
Both RalA and RalB contribute to K-Ras-dependent IR resistance of MIA PaCa-2 cells. Sensitization due to suppressed Ral expression is likely due in part to decreased efficiency of DNA repair (RalA and RalB) and increased susceptibility to apoptosis (RalB). Ral-mediated radioresistance does not depend on either RalBP1 or the exocyst complex, the two best-characterized Ral effectors, and instead may utilize an atypical or novel effector.
PMCID: PMC2922474  PMID: 20619549
RalA; RalB; RalBP1; pancreatic cancer; ionizing radiation
5.  RalGDS-Dependent Cardiomyocyte Autophagy is Required for Load-Induced Ventricular Hypertrophy 
Recent work has demonstrated that autophagy, a phylogenetically conserved, lysosome-mediated pathway of protein degradation, is a key participant in pathological cardiac remodeling. One common feature of cell growth and autophagy is membrane biogenesis and processing. The exocyst, an octomeric protein complex involved in vesicle trafficking, is implicated in numerous cellular processes, yet its role in cardiomyocyte plasticity is unknown. Here, we set out to explore the role of small G protein-dependent control of exocyst function and membrane trafficking in stress-induced cardiomyocyte remodeling and autophagy. First, we tested in cultured neonatal cardiomyocytes (NRCMs) two isoforms of Ral (RalA, RalB) whose actions are mediated by the exocyst. In these experiments, mTOR inhibition in response to starvation or Torin1 was preserved despite RalA or RalB knockdown; however, activation of autophagy was suppressed only in NRCMs depleted of RalB, implicating RalB as being required for mTOR-dependent cardiomyocyte autophagy. To define further the role of RalB in cardiomyocyte autophagy, we analyzed hearts from mice lacking RalGDS (Ralgds−/−), a guanine exchange factor (GEF) for the Ral family of small GTPases. RalGDS-null hearts were similar to wild-type (WT) littermates in terms of ventricular structure, contractile performance, and gene expression. However, Ralgds−/− hearts manifested a blunted growth response (p<0.05) to TAC-mediated pressure-overload stress. Ventricular chamber size and contractile performance were preserved in response to TAC in Ralgds−/− mice, and load-induced cardiomyocyte autophagy was suppressed. Interestingly, TAC-induced activation of the fetal gene program was similar in both genotypes despite the relative lack of hypertrophic growth in mutant hearts. Together, these data implicate RalGDS-mediated induction of autophagy and exocyst function as a critical feature of load-induced cardiac hypertrophy.
PMCID: PMC3647008  PMID: 23473774
autophagy; cardiac hypertrophy; exocyst; small GTPase
6.  The RalB Small GTPase Mediates Formation of Invadopodia through a GTPase-Activating Protein-Independent Function of the RalBP1/RLIP76 Effector 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(8):1374-1386.
Our recent studies implicated key and distinct roles for the highly related RalA and RalB small GTPases (82% sequence identity) in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tumorigenesis and invasive and metastatic growth, respectively. How RalB may promote PDAC invasion and metastasis has not been determined. In light of known Ral effector functions in regulation of actin organization and secretion, we addressed a possible role for RalB in formation of invadopodia, actin-rich membrane protrusions that contribute to tissue invasion and matrix remodeling. We determined that a majority of KRAS mutant PDAC cell lines exhibited invadopodia and that expression of activated K-Ras is both necessary and sufficient for invadopodium formation. Invadopodium formation was not dependent on the canonical Raf-MEK-ERK effector pathway and was instead dependent on the Ral effector pathway. However, this process was more dependent on RalB than on RalA. Surprisingly, RalB-mediated invadopodium formation was dependent on RalBP1/RLIP76 but not Sec5 and Exo84 exocyst effector function. Unexpectedly, the requirement for RalBP1 was independent of its best known function as a GTPase-activating protein for Rho small GTPases. Instead, disruption of the ATPase function of RalBP1 impaired invadopodium formation. Our results identify a novel RalB-mediated biochemical and signaling mechanism for invadopodium formation.
PMCID: PMC3318593  PMID: 22331470
7.  Dual effects of Ral-activated pathways on p27 localization and TGF-β signaling 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(11):1812-1824.
RalA and RalB induce p27 cytoplasmic mislocalization. Focusing on RalA, this study shows that this effect is induced via RalBP1 with a dependence on p27 Ser-10 phosphorylation, whereas PLD1 counteracts this effect in a Ser-10–independent manner. As a result, RalBP1 activation abrogates TGF-β–mediated growth arrest in epithelial cells.
Constitutive activation or overactivation of Ras signaling pathways contributes to epithelial tumorigenesis in several ways, one of which is cytoplasmic mislocalization of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 (p27). We previously showed that such an effect can be mediated by activation of the Ral-GEF pathway by oncogenic N-Ras. However, the mechanism(s) leading to p27 cytoplasmic accumulation downstream of activated Ral remained unknown. Here, we report a dual regulation of p27 cellular localization by Ral downstream pathways, based on opposing effects via the Ral effectors RalBP1 and phospholipase D1 (PLD1). Because RalA and RalB are equally effective in mislocalizing both murine and human p27, we focus on RalA and murine p27, which lacks the Thr-157 phosphorylation site of human p27. In experiments based on specific RalA and p27 mutants, complemented with short hairpin RNA–mediated knockdown of Ral downstream signaling components, we show that activation of RalBP1 induces cytoplasmic accumulation of p27 and that this event requires p27 Ser-10 phosphorylation by protein kinase B/Akt. Of note, activation of PLD1 counteracts this effect in a Ser-10–independent manner. The physiological relevance of the modulation of p27 localization by Ral is demonstrated by the ability of Ral-mediated activation of the RalBP1 pathway to abrogate transforming growth factor-β–mediated growth arrest in epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3667732  PMID: 23576547
8.  RalA Activation at Nascent Lamellipodia of Epidermal Growth Factor-stimulated Cos7 Cells and Migrating Madin-Darby Canine Kidney CellsD⃞V⃞ 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(6):2549-2557.
RalA, a member of the Ras-family GTPases, regulates various cellular functions such as filopodia formation, endocytosis, and exocytosis. On epidermal growth factor (EGF) stimulation, activated Ras recruits guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) for RalA, followed by RalA activation. By using fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based probes for RalA activity, we found that the EGF-induced RalA activation in Cos7 cells was restricted at the EGF-induced nascent lamellipodia, whereas under a similar condition both Ras activation and Ras-dependent translocation of Ral GEFs occurred more diffusely at the plasma membrane. This EGF-induced RalA activation was not observed when lamellipodial protrusion was suppressed by a dominant negative mutant of Rac1, a GTPase-activating protein for Cdc42, inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, or inhibitors of actin polymerization. On the other hand, EGF-induced lamellipodial protrusion was inhibited by microinjection of the RalA-binding domains of RalBP1 and Sec5. Furthermore, we found that RalA activity was high at the lamellipodia of migrating Madin-Darby canine kidney cells and that the migration of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells was perturbed by the microinjection of RalBP1–RalA-binding domain. Thus, RalA activation is required for the induction of lamellipodia, and conversely, lamellipodial protrusion seems to be required for the RalA activation, suggesting the presence of a positive feedback loop between RalA activation and lamellipodial protrusion. Our observation also demonstrates that the spatial regulation of RalA is conducted by a mechanism distinct from the temporal regulation conducted by Ras-dependent plasma membrane recruitment of Ral guanine nucleotide exchange factors.
PMCID: PMC420081  PMID: 15034142
9.  RalBP1 Is Necessary for Metastasis of Human Cancer Cell Lines1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2010;12(12):969-979.
RalA expression in human prostate cancer is associated with cell migration and is necessary for bone metastasis. However, the downstream effectors of RalA that mediate these functions remain unclear. Here we examined cell migration after small interfering RNA-mediated depletion of Ral effectors Ral binding protein 1 (RalBP1/RLIP), exocyst complex component 2 (Sec5), and phospholipase D1 (PLD1) and found that RalBP1 and RalA depletion inhibited cell migration to a similar extent. Stable lentivirus short hairpin interfering RNA-mediated depletion of RalA and RalBP1 in PC3 human prostate cancer cells inhibited bone metastasis after intracardiac inoculation. Depletion of RalBP1 diminished orthotopic tumor growth of PC3 cells and inhibited spontaneous metastasis from this site. Interestingly, the expression of wild-type or RalA mutants deficient in RalBP1 binding was effective at rescuing the reduced metastatic capacity of RalA-depleted PC3 cells, suggesting that RalA depletion does not reduce this solely by diminished interaction with RalBP1. To determine whether the role of RalBP1 in metastasis is relevant beyond prostate cancer, we studied the requirement of RalBP1 expression in an experimental metastasis model of human bladder cancer, a tumor type with high RalBP1 expression. Depletion of RalBP1 in UMUC3 cells resulted in decreased lung colonization while having a minimal effect on subcutaneous tumor growth. Our studies are the first to suggest that the expression of RalBP1 is necessary for human cancer cell metastasis. Furthermore, we show that the requirement for RalA expression for manifestation of this phenotype is not entirely dependent on a RalA-RalBP1 interaction.
PMCID: PMC3003135  PMID: 21170262
10.  Different metastasis promotive potency of small G-proteins RalA and RalB in in vivo hamster tumor model 
Previously we have shown that oncogenic Ha-Ras stimulated in vivo metastasis through RalGEF-Ral signaling. RalA and RalB are highly homologous small G proteins belonging to Ras superfamily. They can be activated by Ras-RalGEF signaling pathway and influence cellular growth and survival, motility, vesicular transport and tumor progression in humans and in animal models. Here we first time compared the influence of RalA and RalB on tumorigenic, invasive and metastatic properties of RSV transformed hamster fibroblasts.
Retroviral vectors encoding activated forms or effector mutants of RalA or RalB proteins were introduced into the low metastatic HET-SR cell line. Tumor growth and spontaneous metastatic activity (SMA) were evaluated on immunocompetent hamsters after subcutaneous injection of cells. The biological properties of cells, including proliferation, clonogenicity, migration and invasion were determined using MTT, wound healing, colony formation and Boyden chamber assays respectively. Protein expression and phosphorylation was detected by Westen blot analysis. Extracellular proteinases activity was assessed by substrate-specific zymography.
We have showed that although both Ral proteins stimulated SMA, RalB was more effective in metastasis stimulation in vivo as well as in potentiating of directed movement and invasion in vitro. Simultaneous expression of active RalA and RalB didn't give synergetic effect on metastasis formation. RalB activity decreased expression of Caveolin-1, while active RalA stimulated MMP-1 and uPA proteolytic activity, as well as CD24 expression. Both Ral proteins were capable of Cyclin D1 upregulation, JNK1 kinase activation, and stimulation of colony growth and motility. Among three main RalB effectors (RalBP1, exocyst complex and PLD1), PLD1 was essential for RalB-dependent metastasis stimulation.
Presented results are the first data on direct comparison of RalA and RalB impact as well as of RalA/RalB simultaneous expression influence on in vivo cell metastatic activity. We showed that RalB activation significantly more than RalA stimulates SMA. This property correlates with the ability of RalB to stimulate in vitro invasion and serum directed cell movement. We also found that RalB-PLD1 interaction is necessary for the acquisition of RalB-dependent high metastatic cell phenotype. These findings contribute to the identification of molecular mechanisms of metastasis and tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3135494  PMID: 21714887
metastasis; Ral proteins; invasion; Ral effector mutants; tumor growth
11.  RalA-Exocyst Complex Regulates Integrin-Dependent Membrane Raft Exocytosis and Growth Signaling 
Current biology : CB  2009;20(1):75.
Anchorage-dependence of cell growth is a key metastasis-suppression mechanism that is mediated by effects of integrins on growth signaling pathways [1]. The small GTPase RalA is activated in metastatic cancers through multiple mechanisms and specifically induces anchorage independence [2–4]. Loss of integrin-mediated adhesion triggers caveolin-dependent internalization of cholesterol- and sphingolipid- rich lipid raft microdomains to the recycling endosomes; these domains serve as platforms for many signaling pathways and their clearance from the plasma membrane (PM) after cell detachment suppresses growth signaling [5, 6]. Conversely, re-adhesion triggers their return to the PM and restores growth signaling. Activation of Arf6 by integrins mediates exit of raft markers from the RE but is not sufficient for return to the PM. We now show that RalA but not RalB mediates integrin-dependent membrane raft exocytosis through the exocyst complex. Constitutively active RalA restores membrane raft targeting to promote anchorage independent growth signaling. Ras-transformed pancreatic cancer cells also show RalA-dependent constitutive PM raft targeting. These results identify RalA as a key determinant of integrin-dependent membrane raft trafficking and regulation of growth signaling. They therefore define a mechanism by which RalA regulates anchorage dependence and provide a new link between integrin signaling and cancer.
PMCID: PMC2822103  PMID: 20005108
12.  Differential involvement of RalA and RalB in colorectal cancer 
Small GTPases  2012;3(2):126-130.
Mutationally activated K-Ras can utilize a multitude of downstream effector proteins to promote oncogenesis. While the Raf and phosphoinositol 3-kinase effector pathways are the best-studied and validated, recent studies have established the critical importance of Ral guanine nucleotide exchange factor (RalGEF) activation of the RalA and RalB small GTPases in cancer biology. Due to recent evidence that the RalGEF-Ral pathway is necessary for the tumorigenic and metastatic potential of KRAS mutant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tumor cells, we investigated whether or not Ral signaling was necessary for KRAS mutant colorectal cancer (CRC) tumor cell growth. As in PDAC, we found upregulated RalA and RalB activation in CRC tumor cell lines and tumors. Surprisingly we found antagonistic roles for RalA and RalB in the regulation of CRC tumor cell anchorage-independent growth. This observation contrasts with PDAC, where RalA but not RalB is necessary for PDAC tumor cell anchorage-independent growth. Our results emphasize cancer cell type differences in Ral function and hence the need for distinct Ral targeted therapeutic approaches in the treatment of CRC vs. PDAC.
PMCID: PMC3408977  PMID: 22790202
Ral guanine nucleotide exchange factors; RalA; RalB; RalBP1; Ras; colorectal cancer; exocyst
13.  RalA Suppresses Early Stages of Ras-Induced Squamous Cell Carcinoma Progression 
Oncogene  2009;29(1):45-55.
Ras proteins activate Raf and PI-3 kinases, as well as exchange factors for RalA and RalB GTPases. Many previous studies have reported that the Ral signaling cascade contributes positively to Ras-mediated oncogenesis. Here, utilizing a bioengineered tissue model of early steps in Ras-induced human squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, we found the opposite. Conversion of Ras-expressing keratinocytes from a premalignant to malignant state induced by decreasing E-cadherin function was associated with and required a knockdown of RalA to a similar degree by shRNA expression in these cells decrease in RalA expression. Moreover, direct ∼2-3 fold knockdown of RalA by shRNA expression in these cells reduced E-cadherin levels and also induced progression to a malignant phenotype. Knockdown of the Ral effector, Exo84, mimicked the effects of decreasing RalA levels in these engineered tissues. These phenomena can be explained by our finding that the stability of E-cadherin in Ras-expressing keratinocytes depends upon this RalA signaling cascade. These results imply that an important component of the early stages in squamous carcinoma progression may be a modest decrease in RalA gene expression that magnifies the effects of decreased E-cadherin expression by promoting its degradation.
PMCID: PMC2803332  PMID: 19802010
14.  A Ral GAP complex links PI 3-kinase/Akt signaling to RalA activation in insulin action 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(1):141-152.
It is shown that RalA is regulated by a Ral GAP complex (RGC 1/2) in insulin action and links PI 3-kinase signaling to RalA activation. Akt phosphorylates the complex and inhibits its function, resulting in increased RalA activity and glucose uptake.
Insulin stimulates glucose transport in muscle  and adipose tissue by translocation of glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) to the plasma membrane. We previously reported that activation of the small GTPase RalA downstream of PI 3-kinase plays a critical role in this process by mobilizing the exocyst complex for GLUT4 vesicle targeting in adipocytes. Here we report the identification and characterization of a Ral GAP complex (RGC) that mediates the activation of RalA downstream of the PI 3-kinase/Akt pathway. The complex is composed of an RGC1 regulatory subunit and an RGC2 catalytic subunit (previously identified as AS250) that directly stimulates the guanosine triphosphate hydrolysis of RalA. Knockdown of RGC proteins leads to increased RalA activity and glucose uptake in adipocytes. Insulin inhibits the GAP complex through Akt2-catalyzed phosphorylation of RGC2 in vitro and in vivo, while activated Akt relieves the inhibitory effect of RGC proteins on RalA activity. The RGC complex thus connects PI 3-kinase/Akt activity to the transport machineries responsible for GLUT4 translocation.
PMCID: PMC3016972  PMID: 21148297
15.  Geranylgeranyltransferase I Inhibitors Target RalB To Inhibit Anchorage-Dependent Growth and Induce Apoptosis and RalA To Inhibit Anchorage-Independent Growth▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(22):8003-8014.
Geranylgeranyltransferase I inhibitors (GGTIs) are presently undergoing advanced preclinical studies and have been shown to disrupt oncogenic and tumor survival pathways, to inhibit anchorage-dependent and -independent growth, and to induce apoptosis. However, the geranylgeranylated proteins that are targeted by GGTIs to induce these effects are not known. Here we provide evidence that the Ras-like small GTPases RalA and RalB are exclusively geranylgeranylated and that inhibition of their geranylgeranylation mediates, at least in part, the effects of GGTIs on anchorage-dependent and -independent growth and tumor apoptosis. To this end, we have created the corresponding carboxyl-terminal mutants that are exclusively farnesylated and verified that they retain the subcellular localization and signaling activities of the wild-type geranylgeranylated proteins and that Ral GTPases do not undergo alternative prenylation in response to GGTI treatment. By expressing farnesylated, GGTI-resistant RalA and RalB in Cos7 cells and human pancreatic MiaPaCa2 cancer cells followed by GGTI-2417 treatment, we demonstrated that farnesylated RalB, but not RalA, confers resistance to the proapoptotic and anti-anchorage-dependent growth effects of GGTI-2417. Conversely, farnesylated RalA but not RalB expression renders MiaPaCa2 cells less sensitive to inhibition of anchorage-independent growth. Furthermore, farnesylated RalB, but not RalA, inhibits the ability of GGTI-2417 to suppress survivin and induce p27Kip1 protein levels. We conclude that RalA and RalB are important, functionally distinct targets for GGTI-mediated tumor apoptosis and growth inhibition.
PMCID: PMC2169159  PMID: 17875936
16.  Regulated RalBP1 Binding to RalA and PSD-95 Controls AMPA Receptor Endocytosis and LTD 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(9):e1000187.
A two step mechanism was identified that regulates receptor endocytosis during the development of long-term depression (LTD), a long-lasting decrease in synaptic transmission.
Long-term depression (LTD) is a long-lasting activity-dependent decrease in synaptic strength. NMDA receptor (NMDAR)–dependent LTD, an extensively studied form of LTD, involves the endocytosis of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) via protein dephosphorylation, but the underlying mechanism has remained unclear. We show here that a regulated interaction of the endocytic adaptor RalBP1 with two synaptic proteins, the small GTPase RalA and the postsynaptic scaffolding protein PSD-95, controls NMDAR-dependent AMPAR endocytosis during LTD. NMDAR activation stimulates RalA, which binds and translocates widespread RalBP1 to synapses. In addition, NMDAR activation dephosphorylates RalBP1, promoting the interaction of RalBP1 with PSD-95. These two regulated interactions are required for NMDAR-dependent AMPAR endocytosis and LTD and are sufficient to induce AMPAR endocytosis in the absence of NMDAR activation. RalA in the basal state, however, maintains surface AMPARs. We propose that NMDAR activation brings RalBP1 close to PSD-95 to promote the interaction of RalBP1-associated endocytic proteins with PSD-95-associated AMPARs. This suggests that scaffolding proteins at specialized cellular junctions can switch their function from maintenance to endocytosis of interacting membrane proteins in a regulated manner.
Author Summary
Neurons adapt over time in order to dampen their response to prolonged or particularly strong stimuli. This process, termed long-term depression (LTD), results in a long-lasting decrease in the efficiency of synaptic transmission. One extensively studied form of LTD requires the activation of a specific class of receptors known as NMDA glutamate receptors (NMDARs). A key molecular event initiated by NMDA receptor activation is the stimulation of protein phosphatases. Another key event is internalization via endocytosis of synaptic AMPA glutamate receptors (AMPARs). However, the mechanism by which protein dephosphorylation is coupled to AMPAR endocytosis has remained unclear. Here, we help to define this mechanism. We show that endocytic proteins, including RalBP1, are widely distributed in neurons under normal conditions. Upon NMDAR activation, the small GTPase RalA becomes activated and binds to RalBP1, resulting in the translocation of RalBP1 and RalBP1-associated endocytic proteins to synapses. At the same time, RalBP1 becomes dephosphorylated, which promotes its binding to the postsynaptic scaffold protein PSD-95, a protein that itself associates with AMPARs. This concerted recruitment of endocytic proteins to the vicinity of AMPARs results in AMPAR endocytosis. On the basis of our data, we propose a model in which dual binding of RalBP1 to both RalA and PSD-95 following RalBP1 dephosphorylation is essential for NMDAR-dependent AMPAR endocytosis during LTD.
PMCID: PMC2730530  PMID: 19823667
17.  The RalB-RLIP76 (RalBP1) complex reveals a novel mode of Ral-effector interaction 
RLIP76 (RalBP1) is a multidomain protein that interacts with multiple small G protein families: Ral via a specific binding domain and Rho and R-Ras via a GTPase activating domain. RLIP76 interacts with endocytosis proteins and has also been shown to behave as a membrane ATPase that transports chemotherapeutic agents from the cell. We have determined the structure of the Ral binding domain of RLIP76 and show that it comprises a coiled-coil motif. The structure of the RLIP76-RalB complex reveals a novel mode of binding compared to the structures of RalA complexed with the exocyst components Sec5 and Exo84. RLIP76 interacts with both nucleotide-sensitive regions of RalB and key residues in the interface have been identified using affinity measurements of RalB mutants. Sec5, Exo84 and RLIP76 bind Ral proteins competitively and with similar affinities in vitro.
PMCID: PMC4214634  PMID: 20696399
18.  Ral GTPases regulate neurite branching through GAP-43 and the exocyst complex 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;171(5):857-869.
Neurite branching is essential for the establishment of appropriate neuronal connections during development and regeneration. We identify the small GTPase Ral as a mediator of neurite branching. Active Ral promotes neurite branching in cortical and sympathetic neurons, whereas Ral inhibition decreases laminin-induced branching. In addition, depletion of endogenous Ral by RNA interference decreases branching in cortical neurons. The two Ral isoforms, RalA and -B, promote branching through distinct pathways, involving the exocyst complex and phospholipase D, respectively. Finally, Ral-dependent branching is mediated by protein kinase C–dependent phosphorylation of 43-kD growth-associated protein, a crucial molecule involved in pathfinding, plasticity, and regeneration. These findings highlight an important role for Ral in the regulation of neuronal morphology.
PMCID: PMC2171284  PMID: 16330713
19.  The Ral/Exocyst Effector Complex Counters c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase-Dependent Apoptosis in Drosophila melanogaster▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(23):8953-8963.
Ral GTPase activity is a crucial cell-autonomous factor supporting tumor initiation and progression. To decipher pathways impacted by Ral, we have generated null and hypomorph alleles of the Drosophila melanogaster Ral gene. Ral null animals were not viable. Reduced Ral expression in cells of the sensory organ lineage had no effect on cell division but led to postmitotic cell-specific apoptosis. Genetic epistasis and immunofluorescence in differentiating sensory organs suggested that Ral activity suppresses c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation and induces p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase activation. HPK1/GCK-like kinase (HGK), a MAP kinase kinase kinase kinase that can drive JNK activation, was found as an exocyst-associated protein in vivo. The exocyst is a Ral effector, and the epistasis between mutants of Ral and of msn, the fly ortholog of HGK, suggest the functional relevance of an exocyst/HGK interaction. Genetic analysis also showed that the exocyst is required for the execution of Ral function in apoptosis. We conclude that in Drosophila Ral counters apoptotic programs to support cell fate determination by acting as a negative regulator of JNK activity and a positive activator of p38 MAP kinase. We propose that the exocyst complex is Ral executioner in the JNK pathway and that a cascade from Ral to the exocyst to HGK would be a molecular basis of Ral action on JNK.
PMCID: PMC1636832  PMID: 17000765
20.  Ral-GTPase Influences the Regulation of the Readily Releasable Pool of Synaptic Vesicles 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(6):1714-1722.
The Ral proteins are members of the Ras superfamily of GTPases. Because they reside in synaptic vesicles, we used transgenic mice expressing a dominant inhibitory form of Ral to investigate the role of Ral in neurosecretion. Using a synaptosomal secretion assay, we found that while K+-evoked secretion of glutamate was normal, protein kinase C-mediated enhancement of glutamate secretion was suppressed in the mutant mice. Since protein kinase C effects on secretion have been shown to be due to enhancement of the size of the readily releasable pool of synaptic vesicles docked at the plasma membrane, we directly measured the refilling of this readily releasable pool of synaptic vesicles after Ca2+-triggered exocytosis. Refilling of the readily releasable pool was suppressed in synaptosomes from mice expressing dominant inhibitory Ral. Moreover, we found that protein kinase C and calcium-induced phosphorylation of proteins thought to influence synaptic vesicle function, such as MARCKS, synapsin, and SNAP-25, were all reduced in synaptosomes from these transgenic mice. Concomitant with these studies, we searched for new functions of Ral by detecting proteins that specifically bind to it in cells. Consistent with the phenotype of the transgenic mice described above, we found that active but not inactive RalA binds to the Sec6/8 (exocyst) complex, whose yeast counterpart is essential for targeting exocytic vesicles to specific docking sites on the plasma membrane. These findings demonstrate a role for Ral-GTPase signaling in the modulation of the readily releasable pool of synaptic vesicles and suggest the possible involvement of Ral-Sec6/8 (exocyst) binding in modulation of synaptic strength.
PMCID: PMC135608  PMID: 11865051
21.  Breaking up is hard to do 
Small GTPases  2011;2(6):329-333.
The small GTPases RalA and RalB are activated downstream of oncogenic Ras. While activation of RalA is critically important for tumor initiation and growth of Ras-driven cancers, the highly similar small GTPase RalB is implicated in cell survival and metastasis. This difference in function between these two related proteins maps to the C-terminus, a 30 amino acid region that regulates subcellular localization and contains several potential phosphorylation sites. Here we discuss our recent evidence that phosphorylation by the mitotic kinase Aurora A promotes RalA relocalization to mitochondrial membranes, where it recruits the effector RalBP1 and the large dynamin-related GTPase Drp1 to promote mitochondrial fission. As upregulation of both RalA and Aurora A have been observed in human tumors, and phosphorylation of RalA at the site targeted by Aurora A promotes tumorigenesis, it is possible that regulation of mitochondrial fission is one mechanism by which RalA promotes cancer.
PMCID: PMC3337163  PMID: 22545232
Aurora A; cell cycle; mitochondrial fission; RalA; RalBP1
22.  Contributions of KRAS and RAL in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer growth and progression 
KRAS mutations are poor prognostic markers for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). RALA and RALB GTPases lie downstream of RAS and are implicated in RAS mediated tumorigenesis. However, their biological or prognostic role in the context of KRAS mutation in NSCLC is unclear.
Using expression analysis of human tumors and a panel of cell lines coupled with functional in vivo and in vitro experiments, we evaluated the prognostic and functional importance of RAL in NSCLC and their relationship to KRAS expression and mutation.
Immunohistochemical (N=189) and transcriptomic (N=337) analyses of NSCLC patients revealed high RALA and RALB expression was associated with poor survival. In a panel of 14 human NSCLC cell lines, RALA and RALB had higher expression in KRAS mutant cell lines while RALA but not RALB activity was higher in KRAS mutant cell lines. Depletion of RAL paralogs identified cell lines that are dependent on RAL expression for proliferation and anchorage independent growth. Overall, growth of NSCLC cell lines which carry a glycine to cystine (G12C) KRAS mutation were more sensitive to RAL depletion than those with wild-type KRAS. Using gene expression and outcome data from 337 human tumors, RAL-KRAS interaction analysis revealed that KRAS and RAL paralog expression jointly impact patient prognosis.
RAL GTPase expression carries important additional prognostic information to KRAS status in NSCLC patients. Simultaneously targeting RAL may provide a novel therapeutic approach in NSCLC patients harboring G12C KRAS mutations.
PMCID: PMC3934792  PMID: 24389431
RAL; RAS; non-small cell lung cancer; GTPase; prognosis
23.  Phosphorylation of RalB is important for bladder cancer cell growth and metastasis 
Cancer research  2010;70(21):8760-8769.
RalA and RalB are monomeric G proteins that are 83% identical in amino acid sequence, but have paralog-specific effects on cell proliferation, metastasis and apoptosis. Using in vitro kinase assays and phosphosite specific antibodies, here we show phosphorylation of RalB by protein kinase C (PKC) and RalA by protein kinase A (PKA). We used mass spectrometry and site-directed mutagenesis to identify S198 as the primary PKC phosphorylation site in RalB. Phorbol ester (PMA) treatment of human bladder carcinoma cells induced S198 phosphorylation of stably expressed FLAG-RalB as well as endogenous RalB. PMA treatment caused RalB translocation from the plasma membrane to perinuclear regions in a S198 phosphorylation dependent manner. Using RNAi depletion of RalB followed by rescue with wild type RalB or RalB(S198A) as well as overexpression of wild type RalB or RalB(S198A) with and without PMA stimulation, we show that phosphorylation of RalB at S198 is necessary for actin cytoskeletal organization, anchorage-independent growth, cell migration and experimental lung metastasis of T24 or UMUC3 human bladder cancer cells. In addition, UMUC3 cells transfected with a constitutively active RalB(G23V) exhibited enhanced subcutaneous tumor growth, while those transfected with phospho-deficient RalB(G23V-S198A) were indistinguishable from control cells. Our data demonstrate that RalA and RalB are phosphorylated by different kinases, and RalB phosphorylation is necessary for in vitro cellular functions and in vivo tumor growth and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3025490  PMID: 20940393
RalB; PKC; phosphorylation; bladder cancer; tumor growth
24.  Ral activation promotes melanomagenesis 
Oncogene  2010;29(34):4859-4864.
Up to one third of human melanomas are characterized by an oncogenic mutation in the gene encoding the small GTPase NRAS. Ras proteins activate three primary classes of effectors: Rafs, PI3Ks, and RalGEFs. In melanomas lacking NRAS mutations, the first two effectors can still be activated vis-à-vis oncogenic BRAF mutations coupled with a loss of the PI3K negative regulator PTEN. This suggests that Ras effectors promote melanoma, regardless of whether they are activated by oncogenic NRas. The only major Ras effector pathway not explored for its role in melanoma is the RalGEF-Ral pathway, in which the Ras activation of RalGEFs converts the small GTPases RalA and RalB to an active GTP-bound state. We report that RalA is activated in a number of human melanoma cancer cell lines harboring an oncogenic NRAS allele, an oncogenic BRAF allele, or wild type NRAS and BRAF alleles. Furthermore, shRNA-mediated knock down of RalA, and to a lesser extent RalB, inhibited the tumorigenic growth of melanoma cell lines having these three genotypes. Thus, as is the case for Raf and PI3K signaling, Rals also contribute to melanoma tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC2928877  PMID: 20562921
melanoma; RalA; RalB; NRas
25.  The Function of the Exocyst is Regulated by Effector Phosphorylation 
Nature cell biology  2011;13(5):580-588.
The exocyst complex tethers vesicles at sites of fusion through interactions with small GTPases. The G-protein RalA resides on Glut4 vesicles, and binds to the exocyst after activation by insulin, but must then disengage to ensure continuous exocytosis. Here we report that after recognition of the exocyst by activated RalA, disengagement occurs through phosphorylation of its effector Sec5, rather than RalA inactivation. Sec5 undergoes phosphorylation in the G-protein binding domain, allosterically reducing RalA interaction. The phosphorylation event is catalyzed by protein kinase C and is reversed by an exocyst-associated phosphatase. Introduction of Sec5 bearing mutations of the phosphorylation site to either alanine or aspartate disrupts insulin-stimulated Glut4 exocytosis, as well as other trafficking processes in polarized epithelial cells and during development of zebrafish embryos. The exocyst thus serves as a “gatekeeper” for exocytic vesicles through a circuit of engagement, disengagement, and re-engagement with G proteins.
PMCID: PMC3904505  PMID: 21516108

Results 1-25 (999739)