A CAAX or a CAAL motif and a second signal are sufficient for plasma membrane targeting of ras proteins

EMBO J. 1991 Dec;10(13):4033-9.


Mutational analysis of p21ras has shown that plasma membrane targeting requires the combination of a CAAX motif with a polybasic domain of six lysine residues or a nearby palmitoylation site. However, it is not known from these studies whether these signals alone target p21ras to the plasma membrane. We now show that these C-terminal sequences are sufficient to target a heterologous cytosolic protein to the plasma membrane. Interestingly, the key feature of the p21K-ras(B) polybasic domain appears to be a positive charge, since a polyarginine domain can function as a plasma membrane targeting motif in conjunction with the CAAX box and p21K-ras(B) with the polylysine domain replaced by arginines is biologically active. Since some ras-related proteins are modified by geranylgeranyl rather than farnesyl we have investigated whether modification of p21ras with geranylgeranyl affects its subcellular localization. Geranylgeranyl can substitute for farnesyl in combining with a polybasic domain to target p21K-ras(B) to the plasma membrane, but such geranylgeranylated proteins are more tightly bound to the membrane. This increased avidity of binding is presumably due to the extra length of the geranylgeranyl alkyl chain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Transport
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Dogs
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Oncogene Protein p21(ras) / genetics
  • Oncogene Protein p21(ras) / metabolism*
  • Plasmids
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Protein Sorting Signals / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Staphylococcal Protein A / metabolism


  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Staphylococcal Protein A
  • Oncogene Protein p21(ras)