The higher level of complexity of K-Ras4B activation at the membrane

Hyunbum Jang, Avik Banerjee, Tanmay S. Chavan, Shaoyong Lu, Jian Zhang, Vadim Gaponenko*, Ruth Nussinov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Is nucleotide exchange sufficient to activate K-Ras4B? To signal, oncogenic rat sarcoma (Ras) anchors in the membrane and recruits effectors by exposing its effector lobe. With the use of NMR and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we observed that in solution, farnesylated guanosine 59-diphosphate (GDP)-bound KRas4B is predominantly autoinhibited by its hypervariable region (HVR), whereas the GTP-bound state favors an activated, HVR-released state. On the anionic membrane, the catalytic domain adopts multiple orientations, including parallel (∼180°) and perpendicular (∼90°) alignments of the allosteric helices, with respect to the membrane surface direction. In the autoinhibited state, the HVR is sandwiched between the effector lobe and the membrane; in the active state, with membrane-anchored farnesyl and unrestrained HVR, the catalytic domain fluctuates reinlessly, exposing its effector-binding site. Dimerization and clustering can reduce the fluctuations. This achieves preorganized, productive conformations. Notably, we also observe HVR-autoinhibited K-Ras4B-GTP states, with GDP-bound-like orientations of the helices. Thus,wepropose that theGDP/GTPexchangemaynotbe sufficient for activation; instead, our results suggest that the GDP/GTP exchange, HVR sequestration, farnesyl insertion, and orientation/localization of the catalytic domain at the membrane conjointly determine the active or inactive state of K-Ras4B. Importantly, K-Ras4B-GTP can exist in active and inactive states; on its own, GTP binding may not compel K-Ras4B activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1643-1655
Number of pages13
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016


  • Farnesyl insertion
  • GDP/GTP exchange
  • KRAS
  • Phospholipids
  • Signaling


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