RAS isoforms and mutations in cancer at a glance

J Cell Sci. 2016 Apr 1;129(7):1287-92. doi: 10.1242/jcs.182873. Epub 2016 Mar 16.


RAS proteins (KRAS4A, KRAS4B, NRAS and HRAS) function as GDP-GTP-regulated binary on-off switches, which regulate cytoplasmic signaling networks that control diverse normal cellular processes. Gain-of-function missense mutations in RAS genes are found in ∼25% of human cancers, prompting interest in identifying anti-RAS therapeutic strategies for cancer treatment. However, despite more than three decades of intense effort, no anti-RAS therapies have reached clinical application. Contributing to this failure has been an underestimation of the complexities of RAS. First, there is now appreciation that the four human RAS proteins are not functionally identical. Second, with >130 different missense mutations found in cancer, there is an emerging view that there are mutation-specific consequences on RAS structure, biochemistry and biology, and mutation-selective therapeutic strategies are needed. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and accompanying poster, we provide a snapshot of the differences between RAS isoforms and mutations, as well as the current status of anti-RAS drug-discovery efforts.

Keywords: GTPase; Oncogene; PI3K; Rac; Raf; Ral.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Codon, Nonsense / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mutation, Missense / genetics
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics*


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)