The key role of calmodulin in KRAS-driven adenocarcinomas

Ruth Nussinov, Serena Muratcioglu, Chung Jung Tsai, Hyunbum Jang, Attila Gursoy, Ozlem Keskin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


KRAS4B is a highly oncogenic splice variant of the KRAS isoform. It is the only isoform associated with initiation of adenocarcinomas. Insight into why and how KRAS4B can mediate ductal adenocarcinomas, particularly of the pancreas, is vastly important for its therapeutics. Here we point out the overlooked critical role of calmodulin (CaM). Calmodulin selectively binds to GTP-bound K-Ras4B; but not to other Ras isoforms. Cell proliferation and growth require the MAPK (Raf/MEK/ERK) and PI3K/Akt pathways. We propose that Ca2+/calmodulin promote PI3Kα/Akt signaling, and suggest how. The elevated calcium levels clinically observed in adenocarcinomas may explain calmodulin's involvement in recruiting and stimulating PI3Kα through interaction with its n/cSH2 domains as well as K-Ras4B; importantly, it also explains why K-Ras4B specifically is a key player in ductal carcinomas, such as pancreatic (PDAC), colorectal (CRC), and lung cancers. We hypothesize that calmodulin recruits and helps activate PI3Kα at the membrane, and that this is the likely reason for Ca2+/calmodulin dependence in adenocarcinomas. Calmodulin can contribute to initiation/progression of ductal cancers via both PI3Kα/Akt and Raf/MEK/ERK pathways. Blocking the K-Ras4B/MAPK pathway and calmodulin/PI3Kα binding in a K-Ras4B/calmodulin/PI3Kα trimer could be a promising adenocarcinoma-specific therapeutic strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1273
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015


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