The lack of Raf-1 kinase feedback regulation enhances antiapoptosis in cancer cells

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Raf-1 has an important role in cellular antiapoptosis. So far, there is no solid evidence that shows that Raf-1 mutation is associated with cancer development. In the course of further study of Raf-1 signaling, we have reported that Raf-1 hyperphosphorylation inhibits its kinase activity toward its downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1/2 (MEK1/2) and proposed a model for negative feedback regulation of Raf-1. Here, we show that there is no hyperphosphorylation in some cancer cells, which results in increased kinase activity and enhances the antiapoptotic ability. Inhibition of either Raf-1 or ALG-2 (apoptosis-linked gene 2) expression results in apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1/c-Jun N-terminal kinase (ASK1/JNK) signaling activation, and cell sensitivity to chemotherapeutic reagents, indicating that inhibition of ASK1/JNK apoptotic signaling by Raf-1 is mediated by ALG-2. A previous report indicated that extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) were responsible for Raf-1 hyperphosphorylation. However, our evidence shows that when ERK1/2 are activated and the Raf-1 gene is not mutated, Raf-1 is not hyperphosphorylated in these cells, indicating that ERK1/2 are not responsible for the Raf-1 hyperphosphorylation in these cancer cell lines. Surprisingly, we also found that Raf-1 is not a necessary kinase for MEK1/2 activation under normal tissue culture conditions, but is required for MEK1/2 activation under apoptosis-inducing conditions. Our research demonstrates that although Raf-1 gene is not mutated, an abnormality of Raf-1 kinase feedback regulation enhances its antiapoptotic function, and Raf-1 can still be a pharmaceutical target to increase chemotherapy or radiotherapy sensitivity in these cancer cells.

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