The GTP-binding protein, R-Ras3/M-Ras, is a novel member of the Ras subfamily of GTPases which shows highest sequence similarity to the TC21 gene. R-Ras3 is highly expressed in both human and mouse brain and ectopic expression of a constitutively active mutant of R-Ras3 induces cellular transformation in NIH3T3 cells. To gain further insight into the normal cellular function of R-Ras3, we examined the ability of R-Ras3 in activating several known intracellular signaling cascades. We observed that R-Ras3 is a relatively weak activator of the mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (MAPK/ERKs) when compared to the H-Ras oncogene. On the contrary, both R-Ras3 and H-Ras activated the Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) to a similar extent. Under similar experimental conditions, R-Ras3 significantly stimulated one of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-K) downstream substrates, Akt/PKB/RAC (Akt), which has been extensively implicated in mediating cell survival signaling. The activation of Akt by R-Ras3 was most likely to be PI3-K-dependent since this biochemical event was blocked by the pharmacological inhibitors, Wortmannin and LY294002, as well as by a dominant negative mutant of PI3-K. More importantly, R-Ras3 affinity-precipitated PI3-K from cell extracts in a GTP-dependent manner, and associated lipid kinase activity was readily detectable in R-Ras3 immune complexes. The biological significance of R-Ras3 in inducing Akt kinase activity is evidenced by the ability of an activated R-Ras3 to confer cell survival in the rat pheochromocytoma cell line, PC12. As expected, this biological activity of R-Ras3 was also abrogated by the addition of LY294002. Thus, R-Ras3 represents a novel G-protein which may play a role in cell survival of neural-derived cells.