The RAF family of kinases mediates RAS signaling, and RAF inhibitors can be effective for treating tumors with BRAF(V600E) mutant protein. However, RAF inhibitors paradoxically accelerate metastasis in RAS-mutant tumors and become ineffective in BRAF(V600E) tumors because of reactivation of downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling. We found that the RAF isoform ARAF has an obligatory role in promoting MAPK activity and cell migration in a cell type-dependent manner. Knocking down ARAF prevented the activation of MAPK kinase 1 (MEK1) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and decreased the number of protrusions from tumor cell spheroids in three-dimensional culture that were induced by BRAF(V600E)-specific or BRAF/CRAF inhibitors (GDC-0879 and sorafenib, respectively). RAF inhibitors induced the homodimerization of ARAF and the heterodimerization of BRAF with CRAF and the scaffolding protein KSR1. In a purified protein solution, recombinant proteins of the three RAF isoforms competed for binding to MEK1. In cells in culture, overexpressing mutants of ARAF that could not homodimerize impaired the interaction between ARAF and endogenous MEK1 and thus prevented the subsequent activation of MEK1 and ERK1/2. Our findings reveal a new role for ARAF in directly activating the MAPK cascade and promoting tumor cell invasion and suggest a new therapeutic target for RAS- and RAF-mediated cancers.
Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.