Publication — IRIC
ERK1/2-induced phosphorylation of R-Ras GTPases stimulates their oncogenic potential.
The Ras-related (R-Ras) isoforms TC21, R-Ras and M-Ras are members of the Ras superfamily of small GTPases. R-Ras family proteins are frequently overexpressed in human cancers, and expression of activated mutants of these GTPases is sufficient to induce cell transformation. Unlike Ras, few activating mutations of R-Ras proteins have been reported in human cancer, and very little is known about the regulation of their activity. In this study, we report that TC21 and R-Ras are phosphorylated on a conserved serine, Ser186 and Ser201, respectively, in intact cells. This residue is located in the C-terminal hypervariable region of the proteins and is not conserved in M-Ras. We show that the MAP kinases ERK1/2 phosphorylate TC21 and R-Ras on this C-terminal serine residue both in vitro and in vivo. Phosphorylation of R-Ras proteins does not affect their subcellular localization or stability but rather stimulates their activation. Phosphorylation-defective mutants of R-Ras and TC21 are compromised in their ability to promote cancer cell adhesion and migration/invasion, respectively. Importantly, we show that phosphorylation of TC21 and R-Ras potentiates their tumorigenic activity in immunodeficient mice. Our results identify a novel regulatory mechanism of the small GTPases TC21 and R-Ras that controls their oncogenic potential.