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1.  Targeting MET kinase with the small-molecule inhibitor amuvatinib induces cytotoxicity in primary myeloma cells and cell lines 
MET is a receptor tyrosine kinase that is activated by the ligand HGF and this pathway promotes cell survival, migration, and motility. In accordance with its oncogenic role, MET is constitutively active, mutated, or over-expressed in many cancers. Corollary to its impact, inhibition of MET kinase activity causes reduction of the downstream signaling and demise of cells. In myeloma, a B-cell plasma malignancy, MET is neither mutated nor over-expressed, however, HGF is increased in plasma or serum obtained from myeloma patients and this was associated with poor prognosis. The small-molecule, amuvatinib, inhibits MET receptor tyrosine kinase. Based on this background, we hypothesized that targeting the HGF/MET signaling pathway is a rational approach to myeloma therapy and that myeloma cells would be sensitive to amuvatinib.
Expression of MET and HGF mRNAs in normal versus malignant plasma cells was compared during disease progression. Cell death and growth as well as MET signaling pathway were assessed in amuvatinib treated primary myeloma cells and cell lines.
There was a progressive increase in the transcript levels of HGF (but not MET) from normal plasma cells to refractory malignant plasma cells. Amuvatinib readily inhibited MET phosphorylation in primary CD138+ cells from myeloma patients and in concordance, increased cell death. A 48-hr amuvatinib treatment in high HGF-expressing myeloma cell line, U266, resulted in growth inhibition. Levels of cytotoxicity were time-dependent; at 24, 48, and 72 h, amuvatinib (25 μM) resulted in 28%, 40%, and 55% cell death. Consistent with these data, there was an amuvatinib-mediated decrease in MET phosphorylation in the cell line. Amuvatinib at concentrations of 5, 10, or 25 μM readily inhibited HGF-dependent MET, AKT, ERK and GSK-3-beta phosphorylation. MET-mediated effects were not observed in myeloma cell line that has low MET and/or HGF expression.
These data suggest that at the cellular level MET/HGF pathway inclines with myeloma disease progression. Amuvatinib, a small molecule MET kinase inhibitor, is effective in inducing growth inhibition and cell death in myeloma cell lines as well as primary malignant plasma cells. These cytostatic and cytotoxic effects were associated with an impact on MET/HGF pathway.
PMCID: PMC3878866  PMID: 24326130
MET; HGF; amuvatinib; MP470; Multiple myeloma
2.  Critical tyrosine residues regulate the enzymatic and biological activity of Raf-1 kinase. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1993;13(11):7170-7179.
The serine/threonine kinase activity of the Raf-1 proto-oncogene product is stimulated by the activation of many tyrosine kinases, including growth factor receptors and pp60v-src. Recent studies of growth factor signal transduction pathways demonstrate that Raf-1 functions downstream of activated tyrosine kinases and p21ras and upstream of mitogen-activated protein kinase. However, coexpression of both activated tyrosine kinases and p21ras is required for maximal activation of Raf-1 in the baculovirus-Sf9 expression system. In this study, we investigated the role of tyrosine kinases and tyrosine phosphorylation in the regulation of Raf-1 activity. Using the baculovirus-Sf9 expression system, we identified Tyr-340 and Tyr-341 as the major tyrosine phosphorylation sites of Raf-1 when coexpressed with activated tyrosine kinases. Introduction of a negatively charged residue that may mimic the effect of phosphorylation at these sites activated the catalytic activity of Raf-1 and generated proteins that could transform BALB/3T3 cells and induce the meiotic maturation of Xenopus oocytes. In contrast, substitution of noncharged residues that were unable to be phosphorylated produced a protein that could not be enzymatically activated by tyrosine kinases and that could block the meiotic maturation of oocytes induced by components of the receptor tyrosine kinase pathway. These findings demonstrate that maturation of the tyrosine phosphorylation sites can dramatically alter the function of Raf-1. In addition, this is the first report that a transforming Raf-1 protein can be generated by a single amino acid substitution.
PMCID: PMC364778  PMID: 7692235
3.  Identification of the functional components of the Ras signaling pathway regulating pituitary cell-specific gene expression. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1994;14(3):1553-1565.
Ras, a small GTP-binding protein, is required for functional receptor tyrosine kinase signaling. Ultimately, Ras alters the activity of specific nuclear transcription factors and regulates novel patterns of gene expression. Using a rat prolactin promoter construct in transient transfection experiments, we show that both oncogenic Ras and activated forms of Raf-1 kinase selectively stimulated the cellular rat prolactin promoter in GH4 rat pituitary cells. We also show that the Ras signal is completely blocked by an expression vector encoding a dominant-negative Raf kinase. Additionally, using a molecular genetic approach, we determined that inhibitory forms of p42 mitogen-activated protein kinase and an Ets-2 transcription factor interfere with both the Ras and the Raf activation of the rat prolactin promoter. These findings define a functional requirement for these signaling constituents in the activation of the prolactin gene, a cell-specific gene which marks the lactotroph pituitary cell type. Further, this analysis allowed us to order the components in the Ras signaling pathway as it impinges on regulation of prolactin gene transcription as Ras-->Raf kinase-->mitogen-activated protein kinase-->Ets. In contrast, we show that intact c-Jun expression inhibited the Ras-induced activation of the prolactin promoter, defining it as a negative regulator of this pathway, whereas c-Jun was able to enhance the Ras activation of an AP-1-driven promoter in GH4 cells. These data show that c-Jun is not the nuclear mediator of the Ras signal for the highly specialized, pituitary cell-specific prolactin cellular promoter. Thus, we have defined a model system which provides an ideal paradigm for studying Ras/Raf signaling pathways and their effects on neuroendocrine cell-specific gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC358514  PMID: 8114693
4.  Conditionally oncogenic forms of the A-Raf and B-Raf protein kinases display different biological and biochemical properties in NIH 3T3 cells. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1995;15(11):6430-6442.
The protein kinase domains of mouse A-Raf and B-Raf were expressed as fusion proteins with the hormone binding domain of the human estrogen receptor in mammalian cells. In the absence of estradiol, 3T3 and rat1a cells expressing delta A-Raf:ER and delta B-Raf:ER were nontransformed, but upon the addition of estradiol the cells became oncogenically transformed. Morphological oncogenic transformation was more rapid and distinctive in cells expressing delta B-Raf:ER compared with cells expressing delta A-Raf:ER. Biochemical analysis of cells transformed by delta A-Raf:ER and delta B-Raf:ER revealed several interesting differences. The activation of delta B-Raf:ER consistently led to the rapid and robust activation of both MEK and p42/p44 MAP kinases. By contrast, the activation of delta A-Raf:ER led to a weak activation of MEK and the p42/p44 MAP kinases. The extent of activation of MEK in cells correlated with the ability of the different Raf kinases to phosphorylate and activate MEK1 in vitro. delta B-Raf:ER phosphorylated MEK1 approximately 10 times more efficiently than delta Raf-1:ER and at least 500 times more efficiently than delta A-Raf:ER under the conditions of the immune-complex kinase assays. These results were confirmed with epitope-tagged versions of the Raf kinase domains expressed in insect cells. The activation of all three delta Raf:ER proteins in 3T3 cells led to the hyperphosphorylation of the resident p74raf-1 and mSOS1 proteins, suggesting the possibility of "cross-talk" between the different Raf kinases and feedback regulation of intracellular signaling pathways. The activation of either delta B-Raf:ER or delta Raf-1:ER in quiescent 3T3 cells was insufficient to promote the entry of the cells into DNA synthesis. By contrast, the activation of delta A-Raf:ER in quiescent 3T3 cells was sufficient to promote the entry of the cells into S phase after prolonged exposure to beta-estradiol. The delta Raf:ER system has allowed us to reveal significant differences between the biological and biochemical properties of oncogenic forms of the Raf family of protein kinases. We anticipate that cells expressing these proteins and other estradiol-regulated protein kinases will be useful tools in future attempts to unravel the complex web of interactions involved in intracellular signal transduction pathways.
PMCID: PMC230894  PMID: 7565795
5.  Raf Activation Is Regulated by Tyrosine 510 Phosphorylation in Drosophila  
PLoS Biology  2008;6(5):e128.
The proto-oncoprotein Raf is pivotal for mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling, and its aberrant activation has been implicated in multiple human cancers. However, the precise molecular mechanism of Raf activation, especially for B-Raf, remains unresolved. By genetic and biochemical studies, we demonstrate that phosphorylation of tyrosine 510 is essential for activation of Drosophila Raf (Draf), which is an ortholog of mammalian B-Raf. Y510 of Draf is phosphorylated by the c-src homolog Src64B. Acidic substitution of Y510 promotes and phenylalanine substitution impairs Draf activation without affecting its enzymatic activity, suggesting that Y510 plays a purely regulatory role. We further show that Y510 regulates Draf activation by affecting the autoinhibitory interaction between the N- and C-terminal fragments of the protein. Finally, we show that Src64B is required for Draf activation in several developmental processes. Together, these results suggest a novel mechanism of Raf activation via Src-mediated tyrosine phosphorylation. Since Y510 is a conserved residue in the kinase domain of all Raf proteins, this mechanism is likely evolutionarily conserved.
Author Summary
Receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)/Ras signaling pathways control many different biological processes during metazoan development. Mutations that disrupt this signaling pathway cause many human diseases, including cancer. The proto-oncoprotein Raf functions downstream of Ras in transducing signals from RTK. Activating mutations in both Ras and Raf have been linked to many types of human cancers. Despite the importance of these oncoproteins in tumorigenesis, the molecular mechanisms of Raf activation remains unresolved. Here, using a genetic screen in Drosophila, we show that the Src homolog Src64B is an activator of Drosophila Raf (Draf) .Src64B phosphorylates tyrosine Y510, in the Draf kinase domain and will activate a full-length Draf, but not a truncated Draf that contains only its kinase domain, suggesting that Y510 phosphorylation may relieve the autoinhibition of full-length Draf. Since Y510 is conserved among all the members of the Raf protein family, its phosphorylation may serve as a mechanism of Raf regulation in general.
Phosphorylation of a conserved tyrosine residue located in the kinase domain of Raf family proteins can serve as a mechanism of Raf activation.
PMCID: PMC2386837  PMID: 18494562
6.  Ras-induced activation of Raf-1 is dependent on tyrosine phosphorylation. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1996;16(3):1027-1034.
Although Rafs play a central role in signal transduction, the mechanism(s) by which they become activated is poorly understood. Raf-1 activation is dependent on the protein's ability to bind Ras, but Ras binding is insufficient to activate Raf-1 tyrosine phosphorylation to this Ras-induced activation, in the absence of an over-expressed tyrosine kinase. We demonstrate that Raf-1 purified form Sf9 cells coinfected with baculovirus Ras but not Src could be inactivated by protein tyrosine phosphatase PTP-1B. 14-3-3 and Hsp90 proteins blocked both the tyrosine dephosphorylation and inactivation of Raf-1, suggesting that Raf-1 activity is phosphotyrosine dependent. In Ras-transformed NIH 3T3 cells, a minority of Raf-1 protein was membrane associated, but essentially all Raf-1 activity and Raf-1 phosphotyrosine fractionated with plasma membranes. Thus, the tyrosine-phosphorylated and active pool of Raf-1 constitute a membrane-localized subfraction which could also be inactivated with PTP-1B. By contrast, B-Raf has aspartic acid residues at positions homologous to those of the phosphorylated tyrosines (at 340 and 341) of Raf-1 and displays a high basal level of activity. B-Raf was not detectably tyrosine phosphorylated, membrane localized, or further activated upon Ras transformation, even though B-Raf has been shown to bind to Ras in vitro. We conclude that tyrosine phosphorylation is an essential component of the mechanism by which Ras activates Raf-1 kinase activity and that steady-state activated Ras is insufficient to activate B-Raf in vivo.
PMCID: PMC231085  PMID: 8622647
7.  Lipopolysaccharide and Raf-1 kinase regulate secretory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist gene expression by mutually antagonistic mechanisms. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(3):1118-1128.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatment of monocytic cells has been shown to activate the Raf-1/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway and to increase secretory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (sIL-1Ra) gene expression. The significance of the activation of the Raf-1/MAPK signaling pathway to LPS regulation of sIL-1Ra gene expression, however, has not been determined. This study addresses the role of the Raf-1/MAPK signaling pathway in regulation of sIL-1Ra gene expression by LPS. Cotransfection of the murine macrophage cell line RAW 264.7 with a 294-bp sIL-1Ra promoter/luciferase construct (pRA-294-luc) and a constitutively active Raf-1 kinase expression vector (pRSV-Raf-BXB) resulted in induction of sIL-1Ra promoter activity, indicating that Raf-1, like LPS, can regulate sIL-1Ra promoter activity. An in vitro MAPK analysis indicated that both LPS treatment and pRSV-Raf-BXB transfection of RAW 264.7 cells increases p42 MAPK activity. An in vitro Raf-1 kinase assay, however, failed to detect LPS-induced Raf-1 kinase activity in RAW 264.7 cells, suggesting that in RAW 264.7 cells, Raf-1 kinase is not an activating component of the LPS signaling pathway regulating MAPK activity or sIL-1Ra promoter activity. This observation was supported by results from transfection studies which demonstrated that expression of a dominant-inhibitory Raf-1 mutant in RAW 264.7 cells does not inhibit LPS-induced MAPK activity or sIL-1Ra promoter activity, indicating that LPS-induced sIL-1Ra promoter activation occurs independent of the Raf-1/MAPK signaling pathway. In additional studies, cotransfection of RAW 264.7 cells with pRA-294-luc and increasing amounts of pRSV-Raf-BXB caused a dose-dependent inhibition of LPS-induced sIL-1Ra promoter activity, indicating that the role of the Raf-1 pathway in the regulation of sIL-1Ra promoter activity by LPS is as an antagonizer. Interestingly, LPS treatment of RAW 264.7 cells, cotransfected with pRA-294-luc and pRSV-Raf-BXB, also inhibited pRSV-Raf-BXB-induced sIL-1Ra promoter activity, suggesting that inductions of sIL-1Ra promoter activity by LPS and Raf-1 actually occur by mutually antagonistic mechanisms. In support of this conclusion, sIL-1Ra promoter mapping studies indicated that LPS and Raf-1 responses localized to different regions of the sIL-1Ra promoter. Further studies demonstrated that mutual antagonism between the LPS and Raf-1 kinase pathways is not promoter specific, as the same phenomenon is observed in assays using a c-fos enhancer/thymidine kinase promoter/luciferase construct (pc-fos-TK81-luc). Additionally, mutual antagonism with regard to sIL-1Ra promoter activity also was observed between the LPS and MEK kinase pathways, indicating that mutual antagonism can occur in more than one MAPK activation pathway.
PMCID: PMC231837  PMID: 9032239
8.  A Raf-1 Mutant That Dissociates MEK/Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase Activation from Malignant Transformation and Differentiation but Not Proliferation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(6):1983-1993.
It is widely thought that the biological outcomes of Raf-1 activation are solely attributable to the activation of the MEK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway. However, an increasing number of reports suggest that some Raf-1 functions are independent of this pathway. In this report we show that mutation of the amino-terminal 14-3-3 binding site of Raf-1 uncouples its ability to activate the MEK/ERK pathway from the induction of cell transformation and differentiation. In NIH 3T3 fibroblasts and COS-1 cells, mutation of serine 259 resulted in Raf-1 proteins which activated the MEK/ERK pathway as efficiently as v-Raf. However, in contrast to v-Raf, RafS259 mutants failed to transform. They induced morphological alterations and slightly accelerated proliferation in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts but were not tumorigenic in mice and behaved like wild-type Raf-1 in transformation assays measuring loss of contact inhibition or anchorage-independent growth. Curiously, the RafS259 mutants inhibited focus induction by an activated MEK allele, suggesting that they can hyperactivate negative-feedback pathways. In primary cultures of postmitotic chicken neuroretina cells, RafS259A was able to sustain proliferation to a level comparable to that sustained by the membrane-targeted transforming Raf-1 protein, RafCAAX. In contrast, RafS259A was only a poor inducer of neurite formation in PC12 cells in comparison to RafCAAX. Thus, RafS259 mutants genetically separate MEK/ERK activation from the ability of Raf-1 to induce transformation and differentiation. The results further suggest that RafS259 mutants inhibit signaling pathways required to promote these biological processes.
PMCID: PMC149463  PMID: 12612072
9.  Plasma Membrane-Targeted Raf Kinase Activates NF-κB and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Replication in T Lymphocytes 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(4):2788-2794.
Increasing evidence points to a role of the mitogenic Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK signaling cascade in regulation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gene expression. Stimulation of elements of this pathway leads to transactivation of the HIV-1 promoter. In particular, the NF-κB motif in the HIV long terminal repeat (LTR) represents a Raf-responsive element in fibroblasts. Regulation of the Raf kinase in T cells differs from findings with a variety of cell lines that the catalytic domain of Raf (RafΔ26–303) shows no activity. In this study, we restored the activity of the kinase in T cells by fusing its catalytic domain to the CAAX motif (-Cx) of Ras, thus targeting the enzyme to the plasma membrane. Constitutive activity of Raf was demonstrated by phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) and endogenous mitogen-activated protein kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) in A3.01 T cells transfected with RafΔ26–303-Cx. Membrane-targeted Raf also stimulates NF-κB, as judged by κB-dependent reporter assays and enhanced NF-κB p65 binding on band shift analysis. Moreover, we found that active Raf transactivates the HIVNL4-3 LTR in A3.01 T lymphocytes and that dominant negative Raf (C4) blocked 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate induced transactivation. When cotransfected with infectious HIVNL4-3 DNA, membrane-targeted Raf induces viral replication up to 10-fold over basal levels, as determined by the release of newly synthesized p24gag protein. Our study clearly demonstrates that the activity of the catalytic domain of Raf in A3.01 T cells is dependent on its cellular localization. The functional consequences of active Raf in T lymphocytes include not only NF-κB activation and transactivation of the HIVNL4-3 LTR but also synthesis and release of HIV particles.
PMCID: PMC109723  PMID: 9525598
10.  Inhibition of the Raf-1 kinase by cyclic AMP agonists causes apoptosis of v-abl-transformed cells. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(6):3229-3241.
Here we investigate the role of the Raf-1 kinase in transformation by the v-abl oncogene. Raf-1 can activate a transforming signalling cascade comprising the consecutive activation of Mek and extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (Erks). In v-abl-transformed cells the endogenous Raf-1 protein was phosphorylated on tyrosine and displayed high constitutive kinase activity. The activities of the Erks were constitutively elevated in both v-raf- and v-abl-transformed cells. In both cell types the activities of Raf-1 and v-raf were almost completely suppressed after activation of the cyclic AMP-dependent kinase (protein kinase A [PKA]), whereas the v-abl kinase was not affected. Raf inhibition substantially diminished the activities of Erks in v-raf-transformed cells but not in v-abl-transformed cells, indicating that v-abl can activate Erks by a Raf-1-independent pathway. PKA activation induced apoptosis in v-abl-transformed cells while reverting v-raf transformation without severe cytopathic effects. Overexpression of Raf-1 in v-abl-transformed cells partially protected the cells from apoptosis induced by PKA activation. In contrast to PKA activators, a Mek inhibitor did not induce apoptosis. The diverse biological responses correlated with the status of c-myc gene expression. v-abl-transformed cells featured high constitutive levels of expression of c-myc, which were not reduced following PKA activation. Myc activation has been previously shown to be essential for transformation by oncogenic Abl proteins. Using estrogen-regulated c-myc and temperature-sensitive Raf-1 mutants, we found that Raf-1 activation could protect cells from c-myc-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, these results suggest (i) that Raf-1 participates in v-abl transformation via an Erk-independent pathway by providing a survival signal which complements c-myc in transformation, and (ii) that cAMP agonists might become useful for the treatment of malignancies where abl oncogenes are involved, such as chronic myeloid leukemias.
PMCID: PMC232176  PMID: 9154822
11.  LMW-E/CDK2 Deregulates Acinar Morphogenesis, Induces Tumorigenesis, and Associates with the Activated b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR Pathway in Breast Cancer Patients 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002538.
Elastase-mediated cleavage of cyclin E generates low molecular weight cyclin E (LMW-E) isoforms exhibiting enhanced CDK2–associated kinase activity and resistance to inhibition by CDK inhibitors p21 and p27. Approximately 27% of breast cancers express high LMW-E protein levels, which significantly correlates with poor survival. The objective of this study was to identify the signaling pathway(s) deregulated by LMW-E expression in breast cancer patients and to identify pharmaceutical agents to effectively target this pathway. Ectopic LMW-E expression in nontumorigenic human mammary epithelial cells (hMECs) was sufficient to generate xenografts with greater tumorigenic potential than full-length cyclin E, and the tumorigenicity was augmented by in vivo passaging. However, cyclin E mutants unable to interact with CDK2 protected hMECs from tumor development. When hMECs were cultured on Matrigel, LMW-E mediated aberrant acinar morphogenesis, including enlargement of acinar structures and formation of multi-acinar complexes, as denoted by reduced BIM and elevated Ki67 expression. Similarly, inducible expression of LMW-E in transgenic mice generated hyper-proliferative terminal end buds resulting in enhanced mammary tumor development. Reverse-phase protein array assay of 276 breast tumor patient samples and cells cultured on monolayer and in three-dimensional Matrigel demonstrated that, in terms of protein expression profile, hMECs cultured in Matrigel more closely resembled patient tissues than did cells cultured on monolayer. Additionally, the b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR pathway was activated in LMW-E–expressing patient samples, and activation of this pathway was associated with poor disease-specific survival. Combination treatment using roscovitine (CDK inhibitor) plus either rapamycin (mTOR inhibitor) or sorafenib (a pan kinase inhibitor targeting b-Raf) effectively prevented aberrant acinar formation in LMW-E–expressing cells by inducing G1/S cell cycle arrest. LMW-E requires CDK2–associated kinase activity to induce mammary tumor formation by disrupting acinar development. The b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR signaling pathway is aberrantly activated in breast cancer and can be suppressed by combination treatment with roscovitine plus either rapamycin or sorafenib.
Author Summary
Effective cancer treatment should include targeting not only drivers of tumorigenicity but also the downstream signaling pathways that these drivers activate. Special attention has to be given to the model systems that identify these targets and interrogating if these targets are poor prognostic indicators in patients. Using cell lines cultured on plastic and extracellular matrix (Matrigel) and comparing their proteomic profiles to breast cancer tumor samples, we demonstrated that overexpression of LMW-E is concomitant with activation of the b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR pathway. Using mouse models, we show that induction of LMW-E is sufficient to induce mammary tumor development in vivo. Next, cells established from the tumors were treated with combination therapy targeting the LMW-E/CDK2 complex and the b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR pathway. Results revealed that this combination therapy effectively inhibited the altered proliferation of these cells. Most significantly, we showed that breast cancer patients whose tumors overexpress both LMW-E and different components of the b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR pathway have the worst prognosis. In summary, through the use of multiple in vitro and in vivo model systems and translating the findings to clinical specimens, we have identified a novel targeted therapy in breast cancer patients whose tumors overexpress LMW-E.
PMCID: PMC3315462  PMID: 22479189
12.  Functional Characterization of FLT3 Receptor Signaling Deregulation in Acute Myeloid Leukemia by Single Cell Network Profiling (SCNP) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13543.
Molecular characterization of the FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 receptor (FLT3) in cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has recently been incorporated into clinical guidelines based on correlations between FLT3 internal tandem duplications (FLT3-ITD) and decreased disease-free and overall survival. These mutations result in constitutive activation of FLT3, and FLT3 inhibitors are currently undergoing trials in AML patients selected on FLT3 molecular status. However, the transient and partial responses observed suggest that FLT3 mutational status alone does not provide complete information on FLT3 biological activity at the individual patient level. Examination of variation in cellular responsiveness to signaling modulation may be more informative.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using single cell network profiling (SCNP), cells were treated with extracellular modulators and their functional responses were quantified by multiparametric flow cytometry. Intracellular signaling responses were compared between healthy bone marrow myeloblasts (BMMb) and AML leukemic blasts characterized as FLT3 wild type (FLT3-WT) or FLT3-ITD. Compared to healthy BMMb, FLT3-WT leukemic blasts demonstrated a wide range of signaling responses to FLT3 ligand (FLT3L), including elevated and sustained PI3K and Ras/Raf/Erk signaling. Distinct signaling and apoptosis profiles were observed in FLT3-WT and FLT3-ITD AML samples, with more uniform signaling observed in FLT3-ITD AML samples. Specifically, increased basal p-Stat5 levels, decreased FLT3L induced activation of the PI3K and Ras/Raf/Erk pathways, decreased IL-27 induced activation of the Jak/Stat pathway, and heightened apoptotic responses to agents inducing DNA damage were observed in FLT3-ITD AML samples. Preliminary analysis correlating these findings with clinical outcomes suggests that classification of patient samples based on signaling profiles may more accurately reflect FLT3 signaling deregulation and provide additional information for disease characterization and management.
These studies show the feasibility of SCNP to assess modulated intracellular signaling pathways and characterize the biology of individual AML samples in the context of genetic alterations.
PMCID: PMC2965086  PMID: 21048955
13.  Regulation and Role of Raf-1/B-Raf Heterodimerization†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(6):2262-2272.
The Ras-Raf-MEK-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway participates in the control of many fundamental cellular processes including proliferation, survival, and differentiation. The pathway is deregulated in up to 30% of human cancers, often due to mutations in Ras and the B-Raf isoform. Raf-1 and B-Raf can form heterodimers, and this may be important for cellular transformation. Here, we have analyzed the biochemical and biological properties of Raf-1/B-Raf heterodimers. Isolated Raf-1/B-Raf heterodimers possessed a highly increased kinase activity compared to the respective homodimers or monomers. Heterodimers between wild-type Raf-1 and B-Raf mutants with low or no kinase activity still displayed elevated kinase activity, as did heterodimers between wild-type B-Raf and kinase-negative Raf-1. In contrast, heterodimers containing both kinase-negative Raf-1 and kinase-negative B-Raf were completely inactive, suggesting that the kinase activity of the heterodimer specifically originates from Raf and that either kinase-competent Raf isoform is sufficient to confer high catalytic activity to the heterodimer. In cell lines, Raf-1/B-Raf heterodimers were found at low levels. Heterodimerization was enhanced by 14-3-3 proteins and by mitogens independently of ERK. However, ERK-induced phosphorylation of B-Raf on T753 promoted the disassembly of Raf heterodimers, and the mutation of T753 prolonged growth factor-induced heterodimerization. The B-Raf T753A mutant enhanced differentiation of PC12 cells, which was previously shown to be dependent on sustained ERK signaling. Fine mapping of the interaction sites by peptide arrays suggested a complex mode of interaction involving multiple contact sites with a main Raf-1 binding site in B-Raf encompassing T753. In summary, our data suggest that Raf-1/B-Raf heterodimerization occurs as part of the physiological activation process and that the heterodimer has distinct biochemical properties that may be important for the regulation of some biological processes.
PMCID: PMC1430271  PMID: 16508002
14.  Tyr Phosphatase-Mediated P-ERK Inhibition Suppresses Senescence in EIA + v-raf Transformed Cells, Which, Paradoxically, Are Apoptosis-Protected in a MEK-Dependent Manner12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2011;13(2):120-130.
Activation of the Ras-Raf-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway causes not only proliferation and suppression of apoptosis but also the antioncogenic response of senescence. How these contrasting effects are reconciled to achieve cell transformation and cancer formation is poorly understood. In a system of two-step carcinogenesis (dedifferentiated PC EIA, transformed PC EIA-polyoma-middle T [PC EIA + Py] and PC EIA-v-raf [PC EIA + raf] cells], v-raf cooperated with EIA by virtue of a strong prosurvival effect, not elicited by Py-middle T, evident toward serum-deprivation-and H2O2-induced apoptosis. Apoptosis was detected by DNA fragmentation and annexin V staining. The prosurvival function of v-raf was, in part, mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase (MEK)-dependent, as shown by pharmacological MEK inhibition. The MEK-dependent antiapoptotic effect of v-raf was exerted despite a lower level of P-ERK1/2 in EIA + raf cells with respect to EIA + Py/EIA cells, which was dependent on a high tyrosine phosphatase activity, as shown by orthovanadate blockade. An ERK1/2 tyrosine phosphatase was likely involved. The high tyrosine phosphatase activity was instrumental to the complete suppression of senescence, detected by β-galactosidase activity, because tyrosine phosphatase blockade induced senescence in EIA + raf but not in EIA + Py cells. High tyrosine phosphatase activity and evasion from senescence were confirmed in an anaplastic thyroid cancer cell line. Therefore, besides EIA, EIA + raf cells suppress senescence through a new mechanism, namely, phosphatase-mediated P-ERK1/2 inhibition, but, paradoxically, retain the oncogenic effects of the Raf-ERK pathway. We propose that the survival effect of Raf is not a function of absolute P-ERK1/2 levels at a given time but is rather dynamically dependent on greater variations after an apoptotic stimulus.
PMCID: PMC3033591  PMID: 21403838
15.  Beta interferon and oncostatin M activate Raf-1 and mitogen-activated protein kinase through a JAK1-dependent pathway. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(7):3833-3840.
Activation of early response genes by interferons (IFNs) and other cytokines requires tyrosine phosphorylation of a family of transcription factors termed signal transducers and activators of transcription (Stats). The Janus family of tyrosine kinases (Jak1, Jak2, Jak3, and Tyk2) is required for cytokine-induced tyrosine phosphorylation and dimerization of the Stat proteins. In order for IFNs to stimulate maximal expression of Stat1alpha-regulated genes, phosphorylation of a serine residue in the carboxy terminus by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is also required. In HeLa cells, both IFN-beta and oncostatin M (OSM) stimulated MAPK and Raf-1 enzyme activity, in addition to Stat1 and Stat3 tyrosine phosphorylation. OSM stimulation of Raf-1 correlated with GTP loading of Ras, whereas IFN-beta activation of Raf-1 was Ras independent. IFN-beta- and OSM-induced Raf-1 activity could be coimmunoprecipitated with either Jak1 or Tyk2. Furthermore, HeLa cells lacking Jak1 displayed no activation of STAT1alpha, STAT3, and Raf-1 by IFN-beta or OSM and also demonstrated no increase in the relative level of GTP-bound p21ras in response to OSM. The requirement for Jak1 for IFN-beta- and OSM-induced activation of Raf-1 was also seen in Jak1-deficient U4A fibrosarcoma cells. Interestingly, basal MAPK, but not Raf-1, activity was constitutively enhanced in Jak1-deficient HeLa cells. Transient expression of Jak1 in both Jak-deficient HeLa cells and U4A cells reconstituted the ability of IFN-beta and OSM to activate Raf-1 and decreased the basal activity of MAPK, while expression of a kinase-inactive form of the protein showed no effect. Moreover, U4A cells selected for stable expression of Jak1, or COS cells transiently expressing Jak1 or Tyk2 but not Jak3, exhibited enhanced Raf-1 activity. Therefore, it appears that Jak1 is required for Raf-1 activation by both IFN-beta and OSM. These results provide evidence for a link between the Jaks and the Raf/MAPK signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC232235  PMID: 9199317
16.  Enhanced clonogenic survival induced by protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) inhibition after Cr(VI) exposure is mediated by c-Raf and Ras activity 
Cellular signalling  2009;21(5):727-736.
Our recent studies showed that maintenance of protein tyrosine phosphorylation by PTP inhibition enhanced cell growth, clonogenic survival, and mutagenesis after a single low-level Cr(VI) exposure, thereby suggesting that tyrosine phosphorylation-dependent signaling may govern inappropriate survival in human lung fibroblasts (HLFs). Our goal is to identify specific phospho-tyrosine regulator(s)/downstream effectors involved in enhanced survival after Cr(VI) exposure and PTP inhibition. Phosphotyrosine profiling array showed that PTP inhibition following Cr(VI) exposure increased tyrosine phosphorylation of specific proteins, such as FGR and ABL, which are upstream regulators of both Erk and Akt pathways. To explore the roles of these pathways in the PTP-induced increase in clonogenic survival after Cr(VI) exposure, we examined the effect of combined Akt1 and Erk1/2 knockdown via siRNA technology. Akt1 and/or Erk1/2 silencing had no effect on the PTP inhibitor-induced increase in survival following Cr(VI) exposure, suggesting the presence of non-Akt/non-Erk-mediated survival signaling. Interestingly, geldanamycin, an HSP90 inhibitor and non-specific Raf inhibitor, abrogated the PTP inhibitor-mediated increase in survival following Cr(VI) exposure and abolished the expression/activity of c-Raf and activity of Mek. These findings prompted us to explore upstream regulators of Erk, i.e., Ras, c-Raf and Mek for their potential roles in clonogenic survival. GW5074, a specific c-Raf kinase inhibitor did not alter the effect of the PTP inhibitor but decreased Cr(VI)-mediated clonogenic lethality, potentially though Mek hyperactivation. A genetic approach with a c/a Mek1 mutant also showed that Mek activity was not directly associated with the PTP inhibitor effect. Finally, a genetic approach with d/n or c/a Ras and c-Raf mutants, showed that Ras and c-Raf activities play a substantive role in enhancing clonogenic survival by PTP inhibition following Cr(VI) insult. In conclusion, these studies highlight a novel pro-survival mechanism for clonogenic survival in the face of genotoxic stress in the presence of PTP inhibition via an Erk/Mek-independent and Ras/c-Raf-dependent regulation in normal human lung fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC2673100  PMID: 19167484
PTP inhibitor; sodium orthovanadate; hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)]; genotoxic stress; clonogenic lethality; cell survival; Ras/Raf/Mek/Erk pathway
17.  Genetic and functional characterization of putative Ras/Raf interaction inhibitors in C. elegans and mammalian cells 
Activation of the mammalian Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK MAPK signaling cascade promotes cellular proliferation, and activating Ras mutations are implicated in cancer onset and maintenance. This pathway, a therapeutic target of interest, is highly conserved and required for vulval development in C. elegans. Gain-of-function mutations in the Ras ortholog lead to constitutive pathway signaling and a multivulva (Muv) phenotype. MCP compounds were identified in a yeast two-hybrid screen for their ability to disrupt Ras-Raf interactions. However, this had not been confirmed in another system, and conflicting results were reported regarding selective MCP-mediated blockade of Ras- and Raf-mediated biological activities in mammalian cells. Here we used the easily-scored Muv phenotype as an in vivo readout to characterize the selectivity of MCP110 and its analogs, and performed biochemical studies in mammalian cells to determine whether MCP treatment results in impaired interaction between Ras and its effector Raf.
Our genetic analyses showed significant dose-dependent MCP-mediated reduction of Muv in C. elegans strains with activating mutations in orthologs of Ras (LET-60) or Raf (LIN-45), but not MAP kinases or an Ets-like transcription factor. Thus, these inhibitors selectively impair pathway function downstream of Ras and upstream of or at the level of Raf, consistent with disruption of the Ras/Raf interaction. Our biochemical analyses of MCP110-mediated disruption of Ras-Raf interactions in mammalian cells showed that MCP110 dose-dependently reduced Raf-RBD pulldown of Ras, displaced a fluorescently-tagged Raf-RBD probe from plasma membrane locations of active Ras to the cytosol and other compartments, and decreased active, phosphorylated ERK1/2.
We have effectively utilized C. elegans as an in vivo genetic system to evaluate the activity and selectivity of inhibitors intended to target the Ras-Raf-MAPK pathway. We demonstrated the ability of MCP110 to disrupt, at the level of Ras/Raf, the Muv phenotype induced by chronic activation of this pathway in C. elegans. In mammalian cells, we not only demonstrated MCP-mediated blockade of the physical interaction between Ras and Raf, but also narrowed the site of interaction on Raf to the RBD, and showed consequent functional impairment of the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway in both in vivo and cell-based systems.
PMCID: PMC2848644  PMID: 20178605
18.  Targeting the Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase RAS-RAF Signaling Pathway in Cancer Therapy 
The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway comprises several key signaling components and phosphorylation events that play important role in tumorigenesis. These activated kinases transmit extracellular signals that regulate cell growth, differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis and migration functions. Alteration of the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK-MAPK (RAS-MAPK) pathway has frequently been reported in human cancer as a result of abnormal activation of receptor tyrosine kinases or gain-of-function mutations mainly in the RAS or RAF genes. Accordingly, these pathways are considered a potential therapeutic target for cancer treatment. Recently, several small-molecule inhibitors targeting this pathway have been developed and are currently being tested in clinical trials.
Areas covered
This paper focuses on the biological role of the RAS-MAPK pathway, the consequence of its disregulation, and the development of small-molecule inhibitors. The rationale for targeting the RAS-MAPK pathway will be reviewed here along with a discussion of the application and the results of various inhibitory molecules as anticancer agents in clinical trials.
Expert opinion
The RAS-MAPK pathway mediates cellular responses to growth signals and is often deregulated in human cancer. Activating mutations in the RAS and BRAF genes have been frequently identified in a wide range of cancers. Inhibitors of MEK and particularly of RAF kinases, have been effective in clinical trials with manageable side effects. RAS and BRAF genes need to be analyzed for mutations as markers of response to treatments and to avoid paradoxical effects. Further characterization of the RAS-MAPK molecular mechanisms regulation in malignant cells or underlying the acquired resistance to RAF inhibitors will facilitate development of novel combination therapies.
PMCID: PMC3457779  PMID: 22239440
mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK); extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK); MAP kinase kinase (MEK); RAS; RAF; inhibitors; targeted therapies
19.  Activation of B-Raf and Regulation of the Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase Pathway by the Go α chain 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2000;11(4):1129-1142.
Many receptors coupled to the pertussis toxin-sensitive Gi/o proteins stimulate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. The role of the α chains of these G proteins in MAPK activation is poorly understood. We investigated the ability of Gαo to regulate MAPK activity by transient expression of the activated mutant Gαo-Q205L in Chinese hamster ovary cells. Gαo-Q205L was not sufficient to activate MAPK but greatly enhanced the response to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor. This effect was not associated with changes in the state of tyrosine phosphorylation of the EGF receptor. Gαo-Q205L also potentiated MAPK stimulation by activated Ras. In Chinese hamster ovary cells, EGF receptors activate B-Raf but not Raf-1 or A-Raf. We found that expression of activated Gαo stimulated B-Raf activity independently of the activation of the EGF receptor or Ras. Inactivation of protein kinase C and inhibition of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase abolished both B-Raf activation and EGF receptor-dependent MAPK stimulation by Gαo. Moreover, Gαo-Q205L failed to affect MAPK activation by fibroblast growth factor receptors, which stimulate Raf-1 and A-Raf but not B-Raf activity. These results suggest that Gαo can regulate the MAPK pathway by activating B-Raf through a mechanism that requires a concomitant signal from tyrosine kinase receptors or Ras to efficiently stimulate MAPK activity. Further experiments showed that receptor-mediated activation of Gαo caused a B-Raf response similar to that observed after expression of the mutant subunit. The finding that Gαo induces Ras-independent and protein kinase C- and phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase-dependent activation of B-Raf and conditionally stimulates MAPK activity provides direct evidence for intracellular signals connecting this G protein subunit to the MAPK pathway.
PMCID: PMC14836  PMID: 10749919
Cellular signalling  2010;22(3):366-376.
MAPkinase signalling is essential for cell growth, differentiation and cell physiology. G proteins and tyrosine kinase receptors each modulate MAPkinase signalling through distinct pathways. We report here that RGS14 is an integrator of G protein and MAPKinase signalling pathways. RGS14 contains a GPR/GoLoco (GL) domain that forms a stable complex with inactive Giα1/3-GDP, and a tandem (R1, R2) Ras binding domain (RBD). We find that RGS14 binds and regulates the subcellular localization and activities of H-Ras and Raf kinases in cells. Activated H-Ras binds RGS14 at the R1 RBD to form a stable complex at cell membranes. RGS14 also co-localizes with and forms a complex with Raf kinases in cells. The regulatory region of Raf-1 binds the RBD region of RGS14, and H-Ras and Raf each facilitate one another’s binding to RGS14. RGS14 selectively inhibits PDGF-, but not EGF- or serum-stimulated Erk phosphorylation. This inhibition is dependent on H-Ras binding to RGS14 and is reversed by co-expression of Giα1, which binds and recruits RGS14 to the plasma membrane. Giα1 binding to RGS14 inhibits Raf binding, indicating that Giα1 and Raf binding to RGS14 are mutually exclusive. Taken together, these findings indicate that RGS14 is a newly appreciated integrator of G protein and Ras/Raf signalling pathways.
PMCID: PMC2795083  PMID: 19878719
RGS14; RGS proteins; GoLoco proteins; GPR proteins; scaffolds; H-Ras; Raf kinases; MAPkiase signalling
21.  Regulation of Raf-1 and Raf-1 mutants by Ras-dependent and Ras-independent mechanisms in vitro. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1995;15(8):4125-4135.
The serine/threonine kinase Raf-1 functions downstream from Ras to activate mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase, but the mechanisms of Raf-1 activation are incompletely understood. To dissect these mechanisms, wild-type and mutant Raf-1 proteins were studied in an in vitro system with purified plasma membranes from v-Ras- and v-Src-transformed cells (transformed membranes). Wild-type (His)6- and FLAG-Raf-1 were activated in a Ras- and ATP-dependent manner by transformed membranes; however, Raf-1 proteins that are kinase defective (K375M), that lack an in vivo site(s) of regulatory tyrosine (YY340/341FF) or constitutive serine (S621A) phosphorylation, that do not bind Ras (R89L), or that lack an intact zinc finger (CC165/168SS) were not. Raf-1 proteins lacking putative regulatory sites for an unidentified kinase (S259A) or protein kinase C (S499A) were activated but with apparently reduced efficiency. The kinase(s) responsible for activation by Ras or Src may reside in the plasma membrane, since GTP loading of plasma membranes from quiescent NIH 3T3 cells (parental membranes) induced de novo capacity to activate Raf-1. Wild-type Raf-1, possessing only basal activity, was not activated by parental membranes in the absence of GTP loading. In contrast, Raf-1 Y340D, possessing significant activity, was, surprisingly, stimulated by parental membranes in a Ras-independent manner. The results suggest that activation of Raf-1 by phosphorylation may be permissive for further modulation by another membrane factor, such as a lipid. A factor(s) extracted with methanol-chloroform from transformed membranes or membranes from Sf9 cells coexpressing Ras and SrcY527F significantly enhanced the activity of Raf-1 Y340D or active Raf-1 but not that of inactive Raf-1. Our findings suggest a model for activation of Raf-1, wherein (i) Raf-1 associates with Ras-GTP, (ii) Raf-1 is activated by tyrosine and/or serine phosphorylation, and (iii) Raf-1 activity is further increased by a membrane cofactor.
PMCID: PMC230651  PMID: 7623807
22.  Strong negative feedback from Erk to Raf confers robustness to MAPK signalling 
This study shows that MAPK signalling is robust against protein level changes due to a strong negative feedback from Erk to Raf. Surprisingly, robustness is provided through a fast post-translational mechanism although variation of Erk levels occurs on a timescale of days.
MAPK signalling is robust against variation in protein level.Robustness is mediated by a negative feedback to Raf.Loss of negative feedback due to mutation in B-Raf opens the door for targeted intervention.
Protein levels within signal transduction pathways vary strongly from cell to cell. For example, it has been reported that concentrations of the last kinase within the MAPK signalling module, Erk, varies about four-fold between clonal cells under the same conditions. In the present study, we analysed how signalling pathways can still process information quantitatively despite strong heterogeneity in protein levels. Mathematical analysis of isolated phosphorylation–dephosphorylation cycles predicts that phosphorylation of a signalling molecule is proportional to the protein concentration. We systematically perturbed the protein levels of Erk in human cell lines by siRNA. We found that the steady-state phosphorylation of Erk is very robust against perturbations of Erk protein level, suggesting that there are mechanisms that provide robustness to the pathway against protein fluctuations. Using mathematical modelling, we identified three potential mechanisms that may provide robustness against fluctuating protein levels:
1. Kinetic effects (saturation of the activating kinase Mek),
2. Transcriptional negative feedbacks,
3. Negative feedbacks on the post-translational level.
By experimental analysis of the systems, which included analysis of Erk phosphorylation under Mek overexpression, measuring transcript levels of negative feedback regulators, and application of generic inhibitors of transcription and translation, we could exclude kinetic effects and transcriptional negative feedback as mechanisms of robustness.
By analysing a panel of cell lines, we found that cells are robust as long as the signal passes through Raf-1. In contrast, cells where the pathway is activated by a mutation in B-Raf lose robustness. Detailed molecular analysis of the system shows that a single post-translational feedback to Raf mediates robustness. Thus, robustness is provided through a fast post-translational mechanism although variation of Erk levels occurs on a timescale of days.
Protein levels within signal transduction pathways vary strongly from cell to cell. Here, we analysed how signalling pathways can still process information quantitatively despite strong heterogeneity in protein levels. We systematically perturbed the protein levels of Erk, the terminal kinase in the MAPK signalling pathway in a panel of human cell lines. We found that the steady-state phosphorylation of Erk is very robust against perturbations of Erk protein level. Although a multitude of mechanisms exist that may provide robustness against fluctuating protein levels, we found that one single feedback from Erk to Raf-1 accounts for the observed robustness. Surprisingly, robustness is provided through a fast post-translational mechanism although variation of Erk levels occurs on a timescale of days.
PMCID: PMC3130559  PMID: 21613978
expression noise; MAPK signalling; negative feedback; Raf; robustness
23.  Resequencing Analysis of the Candidate Tyrosine Kinase and RAS Pathway Gene Families in Multiple Myeloma 
Cancer genetics  2012;205(9):474-478.
Multiple myeloma (MM) is an incurable, B-cell malignancy, characterized by the clonal proliferation and accumulation of malignant plasma cells in bone marrow. Despite recent advances in understanding of genomic aberrations, a comprehensive catalogue of clinically actionable mutations in MM is just beginning to emerge. The tyrosine kinase (TK) and RAS oncogenes, which encode important regulators of various signaling pathways, are among the most frequently altered gene families in cancer. To clarify the role of TK and RAS genes in pathogenesis of MM, we performed a systematic, targeted screening of mutations on prioritized RAS and TK genes, in CD138 sorted bone marrow specimens from 42 untreated patients. We identified a total of 24 mutations in KRAS, PIK3CA, INSR, LTK and MERTK genes. In particular, seven novel mutations in addition to known KRAS mutations were observed. Prediction analysis tools, PolyPhen and SIFT were used to assess the functional significance of these novel mutations. Our analysis predicted that these mutations may have a deleterious effect, resulting in functional alteration of proteins involved in the pathogenesis of myeloma. While further investigation is needed to determine the functional consequences of these proteins, mutational testing of the RAS and TK genes in larger myeloma cohorts might be also useful to establish the recurrent nature of these mutations.
PMCID: PMC3442604  PMID: 22939401
Multiple Myeloma; Tyrosine Kinase; RAS; Resequencing; Mutation analysis; Cancer
24.  Raf-induced proliferation or cell cycle arrest is determined by the level of Raf activity with arrest mediated by p21Cip1. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(9):5598-5611.
The Raf family of protein kinases display differences in their abilities to promote the entry of quiescent NIH 3T3 cells into the S phase of the cell cycle. Although conditional activation of deltaA-Raf:ER promoted cell cycle progression, activation of deltaRaf-1:ER and deltaB-Raf:ER elicited a G1 arrest that was not overcome by exogenously added growth factors. Activation of all three deltaRaf:ER kinases led to elevated expression of cyclin D1 and cyclin E and reduced expression of p27Kip1. However, activation of deltaB-Raf:ER and deltaRaf-1:ER induced the expression of p21Cip1, whereas activation of deltaA-Raf:ER did not. A catalytically potentiated form of deltaA-Raf:ER, generated by point mutation, strongly induced p21Cip1 expression and elicited cell cycle arrest similarly to deltaB-Raf:ER and deltaRaf-1:ER. These data suggested that the strength and duration of signaling by Raf kinases might influence the biological outcome of activation of this pathway. By titration of deltaB-Raf:ER activity we demonstrated that low levels of Raf activity led to activation of cyclin D1-cdk4 and cyclin E-cdk2 complexes and to cell cycle progression whereas higher Raf activity elicited cell cycle arrest correlating with p21Cip1 induction and inhibition of cyclin-cdk activity. Using green fluorescent protein-tagged forms of deltaRaf-1:ER in primary mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) we demonstrated that p21Cip1 was induced by Raf in a p53-independent manner, leading to cell cycle arrest. By contrast, activation of Raf in p21Cip1(-/-) MEFs led to a robust mitogenic response that was similar to that observed in response to platelet-derived growth factor. These data indicate that, depending on the level of kinase activity, Raf can elicit either cell cycle progression or cell cycle arrest in mouse fibroblasts. The ability of Raf to elicit cell cycle arrest is strongly associated with its ability to induce the expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1 in a manner that bears analogy to alpha-factor arrest in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These data are consistent with a role for Raf kinases in both proliferation and differentiation of mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC232408  PMID: 9271435
25.  Destabilization of Raf-1 by geldanamycin leads to disruption of the Raf-1-MEK-mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling pathway. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1996;16(10):5839-5845.
The serine/threonine kinase Raf-1 functions downstream of Rats in a signal transduction cascade which transmits mitogenic stimuli from the plasma membrane to the nucleus. Raf-1 integrates signals coming from extracellular factors and, in turn, activates its substrate, MEK kinase. MEK activates mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), which phosphorylates other kinases as well as transcription factors. Raf-1 exists in a complex with HSP90 and other proteins. The benzoquinone ansamycin geldanamycin (GA) binds to HSP90 and disrupts the Raf-1-HSP90 multimolecular complex, leading to destabilization of Raf-1. In this study, we examined whether Raf-1 destabilization is sufficient to block the Raf-1-MEK-MAPK signalling pathway and whether GA specifically inactivates the Raf-1 component of this pathway. Using the model system of NIH 3T3 cells stimulated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), we show that GA does not affect the ability of protein kinase C alpha to be activated by phorbol esters, but it does block activation of MEK and MAPK. Further, GA does not decrease the activity of constitutively active MEK in transiently transfected cells. Finally, disruption of the Raf-1-MEK-MAPK signalling pathway by GA prevents both the PMA-induced proliferative response and PMA-induced activation of a MAPK-sensitive nuclear transcription factor. Thus, we demonstrate that interaction between HSP90 and Raf-1 is a sine qua non for Raf stability and function as a signal transducer and that the effects observed cannot be attributed to a general impairment of protein kinase function.
PMCID: PMC231585  PMID: 8816498

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