Jang, Hyunbum; Banerjee, Avik; Chavan, Tanmay S.; Lu, Shaoyong; Zhang, Jian; Gaponenko, Vadim; Nussinov, Ruth
The higher level of complexity of K-Ras4B activation at the membrane
FASEB JOURNAL, 30:1643-1655, APR 2016

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 5'-diphosphate (GDP)-bound K-Ras4B 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 (similar to 180 degrees) and perpendicular (similar to 90 degrees) 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, we propose that the GDP/GTP exchange may not be 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.


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