A-RAF, B-RAF, and C-RAF are a family of three protein-serine/threonine kinases that participate in the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK signal transduction cascade. This cascade participates in the regulation of a large variety of processes including apoptosis, cell cycle progression, differentiation, proliferation, and transformation to the cancerous state. RAS mutations occur in 15-30% of all human cancers, and B-RAF mutations occur in 30-60% of melanomas, 30-50% of thyroid cancers, and 5-20% of colorectal cancers. Activation of the RAF kinases requires their interaction with RAS-GTP along with dephosphorylation and also phosphorylation by SRC family protein-tyrosine kinases and other protein-serine/threonine kinases. The formation of unique side-to-side RAF dimers is required for full kinase activity. RAF kinase inhibitors are effective in blocking MEK1/2 and ERK1/2 activation in cells containing the oncogenic B-RAF Val600Glu activating mutation. RAF kinase inhibitors lead to the paradoxical increase in RAF kinase activity in cells containing wild-type B-RAF and wild-type or activated mutant RAS. C-RAF plays a key role in this paradoxical increase in downstream MEK-ERK activation.
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