Genetic and pharmacologic analyses of the role of Icmt in Ras membrane association and function.
After isoprenylation, the Ras proteins and other proteins terminating with a so-called CAAX motif undergo two additional modifications: (1) endoproteolytic cleavage of the -AAX by Ras converting enzyme 1 (Rce1) and (2) carboxyl methylation of the isoprenylated cysteine residue by isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (Icmt). Although CAAX protein isoprenylation has been studied in great detail, until recently, very little was known about the biological role and functional importance of Icmt in mammalian cells. Studies over the past few years, however, have begun to fill in the blanks. Genetic experiments showed that Icmt-deficient embryos die at mid-gestation, whereas conditional inactivation of Icmt in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow is not associated with obvious pathology. One potential explanation for the embryonic lethality is that Icmt is the only enzyme in mouse cells capable of methylating isoprenylated CAAX proteins--including the Ras proteins. Furthermore, in addition to the CAAX proteins, Icmt methylates the CXC class of isoprenylated Rab proteins. In the absence of carboxyl methylation, the Ras proteins are mislocalized away from the plasma membrane and exhibit a shift in electrophoretic mobility. Given the important role of oncogenic Ras proteins in human tumorigenesis and the mislocalization of Ras proteins in Icmt-deficient cells, it has been hypothesized that inhibition of Icmt could be a strategy to block Ras-induced oncogenic transformation. Recent data provide strong support to that hypothesis: conditional inactivation of Icmt in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and treatment of cells with a novel selective inhibitor of Icmt, termed cysmethynil, results in a striking inhibition of Ras-induced oncogenic transformation.
Svensson, AW; Casey, PJ; Young, SG; Bergo, MO
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