Regulation of Neuronal Function by Ras-GRF Exchange Factors

Genes Cancer. 2011 Mar;2(3):306-19. doi: 10.1177/1947601911408077.


Ras-GRF1 (GRF1) and Ras-GRF2 (GRF2) constitute a family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). The main isoforms, p140-GRF1 and p135-GRF2, have 2 GEF domains that give them the capacity to activate both Ras and Rac GTPases in response to signals from a variety of neurotransmitter receptors. GRF1 and GRF2 proteins are found predominantly in adult neurons of the central nervous system, although they can also be detected in a limited number of other tissues. p140-GRF1 and p135-GRF2 contain calcium/calmodulin-binding IQ domains that allow them to act as calcium sensors to mediate the actions of NMDA-type and calcium-permeable AMPA-type glutamate receptors. p140-GRF1 also mediates the action of dopamine receptors that signal through cAMP. Although p140-GRF1 and p135-GRF2 have similar functional domains, studies of GRF knockout mice show that they can play strikingly different roles in regulating MAP kinase family members, neuronal synaptic plasticity, specific forms of learning and memory, and behavioral responses to psychoactive drugs. In addition, the function of GRF proteins may vary in different regions of the brain. Alternative splice variants yielding smaller GRF1 gene isoforms with fewer functional domains also exist; however, their distinct roles in neurons have not been revealed. Continuing studies of these proteins should yield important insights into the biochemical basis of brain function as well as novel concepts to explain how complex signal transduction proteins, like Ras-GRFs, integrate multiple upstream signals into specific downstream outputs to control brain function.

Keywords: Ras; Ras-GRF; neurons; synaptic plasticity.