Ras-related proteins in signal transduction and growth control

Mol Reprod Dev. 1995 Dec;42(4):500-6. doi: 10.1002/mrd.1080420419.


Ras proteins are members of a superfamily of small GTPases that are involved in many aspects of cell growth control. The ras p21 protooncogene products, H-ras, K-ras, and N-ras, transmit signals from growth factor receptors to a cascade of protein kinases that begins with the Raf protooncogene product, and leads to alterations in transcription factors and cell cycle proteins in the nucleus. This cascade is controlled at several points: Ras p21 proteins are regulated by GAPs and by exchange factors, whose activities are altered by growth factor receptor activation (Boguski and McCormick, 1993: Nature 366:643-654). Transmission of signals from Ras to Raf is regulated by the Ras-related protein Rap1 (a protein capable of reverting cell transformation) and by cAMP. Other aspects of Ras p21 regulation will be discussed, including the existence of RasGDl proteins that inhibit GDP dissociation from Ras, and may thus regulate the level of active Ras in the cell. The role of Ras in activation of Raf kinase appears to be limited to the recruitment of Raf to the plasma membrane, at which time Raf becomes stably modified to render it active (Leevers et al., 1994: Nature 369:411-414; Stokoe et al., 1994: Science 264:1463-1467). The nature of these modifications is unclear. Raf in the plasma membrane becomes associated with insoluble structural cell components that may be part of the activation. Furthermore, Raf is associated with proteins of the 14-3-3 family that appear necessary for kinase activation. The 14-3-3 proteins interact with all three conserved regions of Raf, including the kinase domain. In addition to Raf, Ras proteins interact with two known classes of proteins in a manner consistent with effector functions: these are the GAPs and regulators of the Ras-related protein Ral referred to as RalGDS. These biochemical data suggest that other functional pathways are regulated by Ras, including, perhaps, pathways involved in regulating cell shape and motility. The protein R-Ras p21 is about 50% identical to the Ras p21 protooncogene product. This protein is incapable of transforming cells, even though it interacts with Raf and other putative Ras effectors (Fernandez-Sarabia and Bischoff, 1993: Nature 366:274-275). On the other hand, it has recently been shown that R-Ras binds to the protooncogene product Bcl-2, a protein that transforms B cells by blocking apoptosis. R-Ras is regulated by the same GAP molecules as H-Ras and the other Ras protooncogene products, and may therefore be activated in a manner co-ordinate with these growth-promoting proteins. The possible connection between R-Ras and apoptosis will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction*
  • ras Proteins / metabolism*


  • ras Proteins