RET and neuroendocrine tumors

Cancer Lett. 2004 Feb 20;204(2):197-211. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3835(03)00456-7.


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a ligand of RET tyrosine kinase, and its family ligands promote the survival and differentiation of a variety of neurons. Gene ablation studies have revealed that the GDNF-RET receptor system is essential for the development of kidney and peripheral neurons, including sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric neurons. RET can activate various signaling pathways such as RAS/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathways. These signaling pathways are activated via binding of adaptor proteins to intracellular tyrosine residues of RET phosphorylated by its own kinase activity. The RET is profoundly involved in the development of several human neuroendocrine diseases. The constitutive activation of the RET by somatic rearrangement with other partner genes or germ-line mutations causes a considerable population of human papillary thyroid carcinomas or multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2A and 2B, respectively, whereas the dysfunction of RET by germ-line missense and/or nonsense mutations causes Hirschsprung's disease. Biological properties of mutant RET protein determine the disease phenotype. For example, the MEN 2B mutation alters the substrate specificity of RET tyrosine kinase and RET carrying the MEN 2B mutation hereby induces the different set of genes from that carrying the MEN 2A mutation. In this review, we describe the current knowledge about the molecular mechanism of RET activation in human neuroendocrine tumors as well as the physiological roles and signal transduction of RET tyrosine kinase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / genetics*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • GDNF protein, human
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Ret protein, Drosophila