Guanine nucleotide exchange factors: Activators of Ras superfamily proteins



Members of the Ras superfamily of proteins function as regulated GDP/GTP switches that cycle between active GTP-complexed and inactive GDP-complexed states. Guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) stimulate formation of the GTP-bound state, whereas GTPase activating proteins (GAPs) catalyze the formation of the GDP-bound state. We describe three studies that evaluate the mechanism of action of GEFs for Ras (SOS1 and RasGRF/CDC25) or Ras-related Rho (Dbl and Vav) proteins.

Growth factor-mediated activation of Ras is believed to be mediated by activation of Ras GEFs (CDC25/GRF and SOS1/2). Although the mechanisms of Ras GEF regulation are unclear, recent studies suggest that translocation of SOS1 to the plasma membrane, where Ras is located, might be responsible for Ras activation. Our observation that the addition of the Ras plasma membrane-targeting sequence to the catalytic domains of CDC25 and SOS1 greatly enhanced their transforming and transactivation activities (10–50 fold and 5–10 fold, respectively) suggests that membrane translocation alone is sufficient to potentiate GEF activation of Ras.

We have determined that two Ras-related proteins, designated R-Ras and R-Ras2/TC21, can trigger the malignant transformation of NIH 3T3 cells via activation of the Ras signal transduction pathway. Furthermore, like Ras and R-Ras, we observed that TC21 GTPase activity was stimulated by Ras GAPs. However, we observed that both SOS1 and CDC25 were activators of normal TC21, but not R-Ras, transforming activities. Therefore, TC21, but not R-Ras, may be activated by the same extracellular signaling events that activate Ras proteins.

Dbl family proteins are believed to function as GEFs and activators of the Ras-related Rho family of proteins. However, one Dbl family oncogene, designated Vav, has been reported to be a GEF for Ras proteins. Therefore we were interested in determining whether Dbl family oncogenes cause transformation by triggering the constitutive activation of Rho or Ras proteins. Our results suggest that Dbl oncogenes cause transformation via a Ras-independent activation of MAP kinases and Rho family proteins. © 1995 wiley-Liss, Inc.