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Ras promotes robust survival of many cell systems by activating the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase)/Akt pathway, but little is understood about the survival functions of the Ras/ERK pathway. We have used three different effector-loop mutant forms of Ras, each of which activates a single downstream effector pathway, to dissect their individual contributions to survival of nerve growth factor (NGF)-dependent sympathetic neurons. The PI3-kinase pathway-selective protein Ras(Val-12)Y40C was as powerful as oncogenic Ras(Val-12) in preventing apoptosis induced by NGF deprivation but conferred no protection against apoptosis induced by cytosine arabinoside. Identical results were obtained with transfected Akt. In contrast, the ERK pathway-selective protein Ras(Val-12)T35S had no protective effects on NGF-deprived neurons but was almost as strongly protective as Ras(Val-12) against cytosine arabinoside-induced apoptosis. The protective effects of Ras(Val-12)T35S against cytosine arabinoside were completely abolished by the ERK pathway inhibitor PD98059. Ras(Val-12)E37G, an activator of RalGDS, had no survival effect on either death pathway, similar to RasS17N, the full survival antagonist. Thus, Ras provides two independent survival pathways each of which inhibits a distinct apoptotic mechanism. Our study presents one of the few clear-cut cases where only the Ras/ERK, but not the Ras/PI3K/Akt pathway, plays a dominant survival signaling role.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





8817 - 8824


Animals, Apoptosis, Cell Survival, Cells, Cultured, Cytarabine, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases, Models, Biological, Nerve Growth Factor, Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt, Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras), Rats, Recombinant Proteins, Signal Transduction, Superior Cervical Ganglion, ral Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factor