Signal processing at the Ras circuit: what shapes Ras activation patterns?

Syst Biol (Stevenage). 2004 Jun;1(1):104-13. doi: 10.1049/sb:20045003.


A systems biology approach is applied to gain a quantitative understanding of the integration of signalling by the small GTPase Ras. The Ras protein acts as a critical switch in response to signals that determine the cell's fate. In unstimulated cells, Ras switching between an inactive GDP-binding and active GTP-binding state is controlled by the intrinsic catalytic activities of Ras. The calculated high sensitivity of the basal Ras-GTP fraction to changes in the rate constant of GTP-hydrolysis by Ras can account for the carcinogenic potential of Ras mutants with decreased GTPase activities. Extracelluar stimuli initiate Ras interactions with GDP/GTP exchange factors such as SOS, and GTP-hydrolysis activating proteins such as RasGAP. Our data on freshly isolated hepatocytes stimulated with epidermal growth factor (EGF) show transient SOS activation and sustained Ras-GTP patterns. We demonstrate that these dose-response data can only be explained by transient RasGAP activitation, and not by merely switching off the SOS signal, e.g. by inhibitory phosphorylation of SOS. A transient RasGAP activity can be brought about by a number of mechanisms. A comprehensive kinetic model of the EGF receptor (EGFR) network was developed to explore feasible molecular scenarios, including the receptor-mediated recruitment of SOS and RasGAP to the plasma membrane, phosphorylation of RasGAP and p190 RhoGAP by soluble tyrosine kinases, and RasGAP interactions with phosphoinositides and p190 RhoGAP. We show that a transient RasGAP association with EGFR followed by the capture of RasGAP through the formation of complexes with p190 RhoGAP can account for data on hepatocytes. In summary, our results demonstrate that a combination of experimental monitoring and integrated dynamic analysis is capable of dissecting regulatory mechanisms that govern cellular signal transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computer Simulation
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological*
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • ras Proteins / metabolism*


  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • ras Proteins