JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Signal transduction mediated by the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK pathway from cytokine receptors to transcription factors: potential targeting for therapeutic intervention

F Chang, L S Steelman, J T Lee, J G Shelton, P M Navolanic, W L Blalock, R A Franklin, J A McCubrey
Leukemia 2003, 17 (7): 1263-93
12835716
The Ras/Raf/Mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase (MEK)/extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) cascade couples signals from cell surface receptors to transcription factors, which regulate gene expression. Depending upon the stimulus and cell type, this pathway can transmit signals, which result in the prevention or induction of apoptosis or cell cycle progression. Thus, it is an appropriate pathway to target for therapeutic intervention. This pathway becomes more complex daily, as there are multiple members of the kinase and transcription factor families, which can be activated or inactivated by protein phosphorylation. The diversity of signals transduced by this pathway is increased, as different family members heterodimerize to transmit different signals. Furthermore, additional signal transduction pathways interact with the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway to regulate positively or negatively its activity, or to alter the phosphorylation status of downstream targets. Abnormal activation of this pathway occurs in leukemia because of mutations at Ras as well as genes in other pathways (eg PI3K, PTEN, Akt), which serve to regulate its activity. Dysregulation of this pathway can result in autocrine transformation of hematopoietic cells since cytokine genes such as interleukin-3 and granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor contain the transacting binding sites for the transcription factors regulated by this pathway. Inhibitors of Ras, Raf, MEK and some downstream targets have been developed and many are currently in clinical trials. This review will summarize our current understanding of the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK signal transduction pathway and the downstream transcription factors. The prospects of targeting this pathway for therapeutic intervention in leukemia and other cancers will be evaluated.

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