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A Mechanistic Structural View of Ras Biology

By Ruth Nussinov
Cancer and Inflammation Program, National Cancer Institute
& Medical School, Tel Aviv University


Ras proteins are small GTPases that act as signal transducers between cell surface receptors and several intracellular signaling cascades. KRas4B is among the frequently mutated oncogenes in human tumors. Ras proteins consist of highly homologous catalytic domains, and flexible C-terminal hypervariable regions (HVRs) that differ significantly across Ras isoforms. We have been focusing on key mechanistic questions in Ras biology from the structural standpoint. These include whether Ras forms dimers, and if so what is their structural landscape; how do Ras dimers activate Raf, a key Ras effector in a major signaling pathway; how calmodulin temporally inhibit Raf signaling, and the potential role of the hypervariable region and its membrane anchoring regulation. We believe that structural biology, computations and experiment, are uniquely able to tackle these fascinating questions.