Research Articles

Genetic and pharmacological suppression of oncogenic mutations in ras genes of yeast and humans

Science  28 Jul 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4916, pp. 379-385
DOI: 10.1126/science.2569235


The activity of an oncoprotein and the secretion of a pheromone can be affected by an unusual protein modification. Specifically, posttranslational modification of yeast a-factor and Ras protein requires an intermediate of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway. This modification is apparently essential for biological activity. Studies of yeast mutants blocked in sterol biosynthesis demonstrated that the membrane association and biological activation of the yeast Ras2 protein require mevalonate, a precursor of sterols and other isoprenes such as farnesyl pyrophosphate. Furthermore, drugs that inhibit mevalonate biosynthesis blocked the in vivo action of oncogenic derivatives of human Ras protein in the Xenopus oocyte assay. The same drugs and mutations also prevented the posttranslational processing and secretion of yeast a-factor, a peptide that is farnesylated. Thus, the mevalonate requirement for Ras activation may indicate that attachment of a mevalonate-derived (isoprenoid) moiety to Ras proteins is necessary for membrane association and biological function. These observations establish a connection between the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway and transformation by the ras oncogene and offer a novel pharmacological approach to investigating, and possibly controlling, ras-mediated malignant transformations.

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