KRAS Prenylation Is Required for Bivalent Binding with Calmodulin in a Nucleotide-Independent Manner

Biophys J. 2019 Mar 19;116(6):1049-1063. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.02.004. Epub 2019 Feb 15.


Deregulation of KRAS4b signaling pathway has been implicated in 30% of all cancers. Membrane localization of KRAS4b is an essential step for the initiation of the downstream signaling cascades that guide various cellular mechanisms. KRAS4b plasma membrane (PM) binding is mediated by the insertion of a prenylated moiety that is attached to the terminal carboxy-methylated cysteine, in addition to electrostatic interactions of its positively charged hypervariable region with anionic lipids. Calmodulin (CaM) has been suggested to selectively bind KRAS4b to act as a negative regulator of the RAS/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway by displacing KRAS4b from the membrane. However, the mechanism by which CaM can recognize and displace KRAS4b from the membrane is not well understood. In this study, we employed biophysical and structural techniques to characterize this mechanism in detail. We show that KRAS4b prenylation is required for binding to CaM and that the hydrophobic pockets of CaM can accommodate the prenylated region of KRAS4b, which might represent a novel CaM-binding motif. Remarkably, prenylated KRAS4b forms a 2:1 stoichiometric complex with CaM in a nucleotide-independent manner. The interaction between prenylated KRAS4b and CaM is enthalpically driven, and electrostatic interactions also contribute to the formation of the complex. The prenylated KRAS4b terminal KSKTKC-farnesylation and carboxy-methylation is sufficient for binding and defines the minimal CaM-binding motif. This is the same region implicated in membrane and phosphodiesterase6-δ binding. Finally, we provide a structure-based docking model by which CaM binds to prenylated KRAS4b. Our data provide new insights into the KRAS4b-CaM interaction and suggest a possible mechanism whereby CaM can regulate KRAS4b membrane localization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Calmodulin / chemistry
  • Calmodulin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleotides / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Prenylation*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism*


  • Calmodulin
  • Nucleotides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)