Object. Guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-binding proteins, also known as G proteins, play important roles in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation by transmitting intracellular signals from cell surface receptors. In this paper, the authors review G protein signaling in general and its aberrations in four human nervous system tumors. Methods. In the nervous system, four tumor types have been associated with aberrant G protein signaling. The first tumor type includes astrocytomas, which have increased levels of the activated form of the small G protein, p21-ras, without primary oncogenic p21-ras mutations. The likely source for increased p21-ras activity in sporadically occurring astrocytomas is overexpressed or constitutively activated growth factor receptors, whereas in neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)-associated astrocytomas, the source is a loss of expression of neurofibromin, a major inactivator of p21-ras (ras-GTPase activating protein [GAP]). The second type of tumor associated with aberrant G protein signaling includes sporadic and NF1-associated neurofibromas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, which also have increased p21-ras activity due to a loss of neurofibromin expression. The third tumor type includes subependymal giant cell astrocytomas as part of the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). These tumors display a loss of tuberin expression due to germline mutations in the TSC2 gene. Tuberin functions as an inactivator of the small G protein rap1B (rap1-GAP) and, hence, loss of its expression could lead to increased rap1B activity. In addition to TSC-associated tumors, the authors demonstrate that the majority of sporadically occurring astrocytomas display either loss of tuberin or overexpression of rap1B. This suggests that increased rap1B activity, which can augment p21-ras-mediated signals, also contributes to G protein-mediated aberrant signaling in sporadically occurring astrocytomas. The fourth tumor type includes a significant subset of pituitary adenomas that show constitutive activation of the Gα subunit of the large heterotrimeric Gs protein, which is involved in hormone receptor signaling. The net result of this aberrant activation is increased cyclic adenosine monophosphate and mitogenic tumor-promoting signals. Conclusions. The authors' review of G protein signaling and aberrations in this process is made with the longterm view that increased understanding of relevant signaling pathways will eventually lead to novel biological targeted therapies against these tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-642
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Adenoma
  • Astrocytoma
  • G protein
  • Neurofibroma
  • Neurofibromin
  • Tuberin
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • p21-ras


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