The small GTPase Ras is a universal eukaryotic cytoplasmic membrane-anchored protein, which regulates diverse downstream signal transduction pathways that play an important role in the proper functioning of neurons. Ras activity is a central regulator of structural and functional synaptic plasticity in the adult nervous system, where it channels neuronal responses to various extracellular cues allowing the organism to adapt to complex environmental stimuli. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the principle pacemaker of the circadian clock, and the circadian and photic regulation of Ras activity in the SCN is an important modulator of the clockwork. We have generated transgenic mouse expressing constitutively active V12-H-Ras selectively in neurons via a synapsin I promoter (synRas mice), which serves as a suitable model to study the role of neuronal Ras signaling. Modulation of Ras activity affects ERK1,2/CREB signaling and glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta expression in the SCN, which in turn modify the photoentrainment of the clock and the fine tuning the circadian period length. The main focus of this review is to offer an overview of the function of Ras signaling in the circadian rhythm and its potential role in learning and memory consolidation.
Keywords: ERK1/2; Ras; circadian; glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta; synRas mice.