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Keywords:

  • Cancer;
  • ERK;
  • MAP kinases;
  • Ras;
  • Spatial regulation of signalling

Abstract

Recent discoveries have suggested the concept that intracellular signals are the sum of multiple, site-specified subsignals, rather than single, homogeneous entities. In the context of cancer, searching for compounds that selectively block subsignals essential for tumor progression, but not those regulating “house-keeping” functions, could help in producing drugs with reduced side effects compared to compounds that block signaling completely. The Ras-ERK pathway has become a paradigm of how space can differentially shape signaling. Today, we know that Ras proteins are found in different plasma membrane microdomains and endomembranes. At these localizations, Ras is subject to site-specific regulatory mechanisms, distinctively engaging effector pathways and switching-on diverse genetic programs to generate different biological responses. The Ras effector pathway leading to ERKs activation is also under strict, space-related regulatory processes. These findings may open a gate for aiming at the Ras-ERK pathway in a spatially restricted fashion, in our quest for new anti-tumor therapies.