Identification of Residues and Domains of Raf Important for Function in Vivo and in Vitro

Angus Harding, Virginia Hsu, Kerry Kornfeld, John F. Hancock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Random mutagenesis and genetic screens for impaired Raf function in Caenorhabditis elegans were used to identify six loss-of-function alleles of lin-45 raf that result in a substitution of a single amino acid. The mutations were classified as weak, intermediate, and strong based on phenotypic severity. We engineered these mutations into the homologous residues of vertebrate Raf-1 and analyzed the mutant proteins for their underlying biochemical defects. Surprisingly, phenotype strength did not correlate with the catalytic activity of the mutant proteins. Amino acid substitutions Val-589 and Ser-619 severely compromised Raf kinase activity, yet these mutants displayed weak phenotypes in the genetic screen. Interestingly, this is because these mutant Raf proteins efficiently activate the MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) cascade in living cells, a result that may inform the analysis of knockout mice. Equally intriguing was the observation that mutant proteins with non-functional Ras-binding domains, and thereby deficient in Ras-mediated membrane recruitment, displayed only intermediate strength phenotypes. This confirms that secondary mechanisms exist to couple Ras to Raf in vivo. The strongest phenotype in the genetic screens was displayed by a S508N mutation that again did not correlate with a significant loss of kinase activity or membrane recruitment by oncogenic Ras in biochemical assays. Ser-508 lies within the Raf-1 activation loop, and mutation of this residue in Raf-1 and the equivalent Ser-615 in B-Raf revealed that this residue regulates Raf binding to MEK. Further characterization revealed that in response to activation by epidermal growth factor, the Raf-S508N mutant protein displayed both reduced catalytic activity and aberrant activation kinetics: characteristics that may explain the C. elegans phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45519-45527
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 14 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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