R-Ras subfamily proteins elicit distinct physiologic effects and phosphoproteome alterations in neurofibromin-null MPNST cells

Shannon M. Weber, Nicole M. Brossier, Amanda Prechtl, Stephen Barnes, Landon S. Wilson, Stephanie N. Brosius, Jody Fromm Longo, Steven L. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Loss of the Ras GTPase-activating protein neurofibromin promotes nervous system tumor pathogenesis in patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). Neurofibromin loss potentially hyperactivates classic Ras (H-Ras, N-Ras, K-Ras), M-Ras, and R-Ras (R-Ras, R-Ras2/TC21) subfamily proteins. We have shown that classic Ras proteins promote proliferation and survival, but not migration, in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) cells. However, it is unclear whether R-Ras, R-Ras2 and M-Ras are expressed and hyperactivated in MPNSTs and, if so, whether they contribute to MPNST pathogenesis. We assessed the expression and activation of these proteins in MPNST cells and inhibited them to determine the effect this had on proliferation, migration, invasion, survival and the phosphoproteome. Methods: NF1-associated (ST88-14, 90-8, NMS2, NMS-PC, S462, T265-2c) and sporadic (STS-26T, YST-1) MPNST lines were used. Cells were transfected with doxycycline-inducible vectors expressing either a pan-inhibitor of the R-Ras subfamily [dominant negative (DN) R-Ras] or enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP). Methodologies used included immunoblotting, immunocytochemistry, PCR, Transwell migration, 3H-thymidine incorporation, calcein cleavage assays and shRNA knockdowns. Proteins in cells with or without DN R-Ras expression were differentially labeled with SILAC and mass spectrometry was used to identify phosphoproteins and determine their relative quantities in the presence and absence of DN R-Ras. Validation of R-Ras and R-Ras2 action and R-Ras regulated networks was performed using genetic and/or pharmacologic approaches. Results: R-Ras2 was uniformly expressed in MPNST cells, with R-Ras present in a major subset. Both proteins were activated in neurofibromin-null MPNST cells. Consistent with classical Ras inhibition, DN R-Ras and R-Ras2 knockdown inhibited proliferation. However, DN R-Ras inhibition impaired migration and invasion but not survival. Mass spectrometry-based phosphoproteomics identified thirteen protein networks distinctly regulated by DN R-Ras, including multiple networks regulating cellular movement and morphology. ROCK1 was a prominent mediator in these networks. DN R-Ras expression and RRAS and RRAS2 knockdown inhibited migration and ROCK1 phosphorylation; ROCK1 inhibition similarly impaired migration and invasion, altered cellular morphology and triggered the accumulation of large intracellular vesicles. Conclusions: R-Ras proteins function distinctly from classic Ras proteins by regulating distinct signaling pathways that promote MPNST tumorigenesis by mediating migration and invasion. Plain English Summary: Mutations of the NF1 gene potentially results in the activation of multiple Ras proteins, which are key regulators of many biologic effects. The protein encoded by the NF1 gene, neurofibromin, acts as an inhibitor of both classic Ras and R-Ras proteins; loss of neurofibromin could cause these Ras proteins to become persistently active, leading to the development of cancer. We have previously shown that three related Ras proteins (the classic Ras proteins) are highly activated in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) cells with neurofibromin loss and that they drive cancer cell proliferation and survival by activating multiple cellular signaling pathways. Here, we examined the expression, activation and action of R-Ras proteins in MPNST cells that have lost neurofibromin. Both R-Ras and R-Ras2 are expressed in MPNST cells and activated. Inhibition of R-Ras action inhibited proliferation, migration and invasion but not survival. We examined the activation of cytoplasmic signaling pathways in the presence and absence of R-Ras signaling and found that R-Ras proteins regulated 13 signaling pathways distinct from those regulated by classic Ras proteins. Closer study of an R-Ras regulated pathway containing the signaling protein ROCK1 showed that inhibition of either R-Ras, R-Ras2 or ROCK1 similarly impaired cellular migration and invasion and altered cellular morphology. Inhibition of R-Ras/R-Ras2 and ROCK1 signaling also triggered the accumulation of abnormal intracellular vesicles, indicating that these signaling molecules regulate the movement of proteins and other molecules in the cellular interior. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.] [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
JournalCell Communication and Signaling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • R-Ras
  • Ras
  • TC21


Dive into the research topics of 'R-Ras subfamily proteins elicit distinct physiologic effects and phosphoproteome alterations in neurofibromin-null MPNST cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this