Gene Summary

Gene:RALB; RAS like proto-oncogene B
Summary:This gene encodes a GTP-binding protein that belongs to the small GTPase superfamily and Ras family of proteins. GTP-binding proteins mediate the transmembrane signaling initiated by the occupancy of certain cell surface receptors. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008]
Databases:OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:ras-related protein Ral-B
Source:NCBIAccessed: 01 September, 2019


What does this gene/protein do?
Show (15)

Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1994-2019)
Graph generated 01 September 2019 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

  • src-Family Kinases
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • AKT1
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • RAS Genes
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Bladder Cancer
  • ral GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins
  • ras Proteins
  • Cell Proliferation
  • siRNA
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • Mutation
  • RNA Interference
  • RALB
  • Cell Movement
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • Phosphorylation
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Apoptosis
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Neoplastic Cell Transformation
  • Chromosome 2
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • GTPase-Activating Proteins
  • Staging
  • Transfection
  • Lung Cancer
  • Protein Transport
  • Monomeric GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Western Blotting
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Cell Line
  • Base Sequence
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • Xenograft Models
Tag cloud generated 01 September, 2019 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (5)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: RALB (cancer-related)

Yan C, Theodorescu D
RAL GTPases: Biology and Potential as Therapeutic Targets in Cancer.
Pharmacol Rev. 2018; 70(1):1-11 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
More than a hundred proteins comprise the RAS superfamily of small GTPases. This family can be divided into RAS, RHO, RAB, RAN, ARF, and RAD subfamilies, with each shown to play distinct roles in human cells in both health and disease. The RAS subfamily has a well-established role in human cancer with the three genes,

Pomeroy EJ, Lee LA, Lee RDW, et al.
Ras oncogene-independent activation of RALB signaling is a targetable mechanism of escape from NRAS(V12) oncogene addiction in acute myeloid leukemia.
Oncogene. 2017; 36(23):3263-3273 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Somatic mutations that lead to constitutive activation of NRAS and KRAS proto-oncogenes are among the most common in human cancer and frequently occur in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). An inducible NRAS(V12)-driven AML mouse model has established a critical role for continued NRAS(V12) expression in leukemia maintenance. In this model genetic suppression of NRAS(V12) expression results in rapid leukemia remission, but some mice undergo spontaneous relapse with NRAS(V12)-independent (NRI) AMLs providing an opportunity to identify mechanisms that bypass the requirement for Ras oncogene activity and drive leukemia relapse. We found that relapsed NRI AMLs are devoid of NRAS(V12) expression and signaling through the major oncogenic Ras effector pathways, phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase, but express higher levels of an alternate Ras effector, Ralb, and exhibit NRI phosphorylation of the RALB effector TBK1, implicating RALB signaling in AML relapse. Functional studies confirmed that inhibiting CDK5-mediated RALB activation with a clinically relevant experimental drug, dinaciclib, led to potent RALB-dependent antileukemic effects in human AML cell lines, induced apoptosis in patient-derived AML samples in vitro and led to a 2-log reduction in the leukemic burden in patient-derived xenograft mice. Furthermore, dinaciclib potently suppressed the clonogenic potential of relapsed NRI AMLs in vitro and prevented the development of relapsed AML in vivo. Our findings demonstrate that Ras oncogene-independent activation of RALB signaling is a therapeutically targetable mechanism of escape from NRAS oncogene addiction in AML.

Eckfeldt CE, Pomeroy EJ, Lee RD, et al.
RALB provides critical survival signals downstream of Ras in acute myeloid leukemia.
Oncotarget. 2016; 7(40):65147-65156 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Mutations that activate RAS proto-oncogenes and their effectors are common in acute myeloid leukemia (AML); however, efforts to therapeutically target Ras or its effectors have been unsuccessful, and have been hampered by an incomplete understanding of which effectors are required for AML proliferation and survival. We investigated the role of Ras effector pathways in AML using murine and human AML models. Whereas genetic disruption of NRAS(V12) expression in an NRAS(V12) and Mll-AF9-driven murine AML induced apoptosis of leukemic cells, inhibition of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) and/or mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling did not reproduce this effect. Conversely, genetic disruption of RALB signaling induced AML cell death and phenocopied the effects of suppressing oncogenic Ras directly - uncovering a novel role for RALB signaling in AML survival. Knockdown of RALB led to decreased phosphorylation of TBK1 and reduced BCL2 expression, providing mechanistic insight into RALB survival signaling in AML. Notably, we found that patient-derived AML blasts have higher levels of RALB-TBK1 signaling compared to normal blood leukocytes, supporting a pathophysiologic role for RALB signaling for AML patients. Overall, our work provides new insight into the specific roles of Ras effector pathways in AML and has identified RALB signaling as a key survival pathway.

Wan ZY, Tian JS, Tan HW, et al.
Mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 is an essential mediator of metabolic and mitogenic effects of fibroblast growth factor 19 in hepatoma cells.
Hepatology. 2016; 64(4):1289-301 [PubMed] Related Publications
UNLABELLED: Fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19) is an important postprandial enterokine which regulates liver metabolism and hepatocyte proliferation. However, the precise mechanism by which FGF19 regulates these cellular effects is poorly understood. Given that mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) regulates numerous postprandial adaptations, we investigated the potential role of mTORC1 in FGF19 action. We found that FGF19 activated mTORC1 in HepG2 and HuH7 human hepatoma cells, differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes and mouse liver. FGF19 activates the mTORC1-p70S6K and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)-p90RSK pathways independently to regulate S6 in an additive manner in hepatoma cells, but it uses mTORC1 as the primary pathway to regulate S6 in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Thus, mTORC1 is a novel mediator of FGF19 signaling, which can act in parallel with Erk or function as the primary pathway to regulate S6. The FGF19-induced mTORC1 pathway requires amino acids for efficient signaling; thus, involvement of mTORC1 confers amino acid sensitivity to FGF19 signaling. Although Akt and Erk are known to activate mTORC1, we found that FGF19 signals to mTORC1 through a third recently identified mTORC1 regulator, Ras-like (Ral) protein. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of RalA or RalB abolished FGF19-induced mTORC1 activation, demonstrating that Ral proteins are required for FGF19 to activate mTORC1. FGF19 induced metabolic gene expression, fatty acid oxidation, cell growth, and proliferation in HepG2 cells; and these effects were abolished by mTORC1 inhibition, demonstrating an essential role of mTORC1 in FGF19 action.
CONCLUSION: mTORC1 is a novel and essential mediator of FGF19 action on metabolic and mitogenic programs; thus, the involvement of mTORC1 in FGF19 signaling is an important factor to consider when targeting the pathway for cancer or diabetes therapy. (Hepatology 2016;64:1289-1301).

O Santos A, Parrini MC, Camonis J
RalGPS2 Is Essential for Survival and Cell Cycle Progression of Lung Cancer Cells Independently of Its Established Substrates Ral GTPases.
PLoS One. 2016; 11(5):e0154840 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The human genome contains six genes coding for proteins validated in vitro as specific activators of the small GTPases "Ras-related protein Ral-A" and "Ras-related protein Ral-B", generically named Ral-guanine nucleotide exchange factors (RalGEF). Ral proteins are important contributors to Ras oncogenic signaling, and RAS oncogenes are important in human Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (NSCLC). Therefore in this work, RalGEF contribution to oncogenic and non-oncogenic features of human NSCLC cell lines, as anchorage-dependent and independent growth, cell survival, and proliferation, was investigated. Among all human RalGEF, silencing of RGL1 and RALGPS1 had no detectable effect. However, silencing of either RGL2, RGL3, RALGDS or, to a larger extent, RALGPS2 inhibited cell population growth in anchorage dependent and independent conditions (up to 90 and 80%, respectively). RALGPS2 silencing also caused an increase in the number of apoptotic cells, up to 45% of the cell population in transformed bronchial BZR cells. In H1299 and A549, two NSCLC cell lines, RALGPS2 silencing caused an arrest of cells in the G0/G1-phase of cell cycle. Furthermore, it was associated with the modulation of important cell cycle regulators: the E3 Ubiquitin Protein Ligase S-phase kinase-associated protein 2 (Skp2) was strongly down-regulated (both at mRNA and protein levels), and its targets, the cell cycle inhibitors p27 and p21, were up-regulated. These molecular effects were not mimicked by silencing RALA, RALB, or both. However, RALB silencing caused a modest inhibition of cell cycle progression, which in H1299 cells was associated with Cyclin D1 regulation. In conclusion, RALGPS2 is implicated in the control of cell cycle progression and survival in the in vitro growth of NSCLC cell lines. This function is largely independent of Ral GTPases and associated with modulation of Skp2, p27 and p21 cell cycle regulators.

Vasseur R, Skrypek N, Duchêne B, et al.
The mucin MUC4 is a transcriptional and post-transcriptional target of K-ras oncogene in pancreatic cancer. Implication of MAPK/AP-1, NF-κB and RalB signaling pathways.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015; 1849(12):1375-84 [PubMed] Related Publications
The membrane-bound mucinMUC4 is a high molecularweight glycoprotein frequently deregulated in cancer. In pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly cancers in occidental countries, MUC4 is neo-expressed in the preneoplastic stages and thereafter is involved in cancer cell properties leading to cancer progression and chemoresistance. K-ras oncogene is a small GTPase of the RAS superfamily, highly implicated in cancer. K-ras mutations are considered as an initiating event of pancreatic carcinogenesis and K-ras oncogenic activities are necessary components of cancer progression. However, K-ras remains clinically undruggable. Targeting early downstream K-ras signaling in cancer may thus appear as an interesting strategy and MUC4 regulation by K-ras in pancreatic carcinogenesis remains unknown. Using the Pdx1-Cre; LStopL-K-rasG12D mouse model of pancreatic carcinogenesis, we show that the in vivo early neo-expression of the mucin Muc4 in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplastic lesions (PanINs) induced by mutated K-ras is correlated with the activation of ERK, JNK and NF-κB signaling pathways. In vitro, transfection of constitutively activated K-rasG12V in pancreatic cancer cells led to the transcriptional upregulation of MUC4. This activation was found to be mediated at the transcriptional level by AP-1 and NF-κB transcription factors via MAPK, JNK and NF-κB pathways and at the posttranscriptional level by a mechanism involving the RalB GTPase. Altogether, these results identify MUC4 as a transcriptional and post-transcriptional target of K-ras in pancreatic cancer. This opens avenues in developing new approaches to target the early steps of this deadly cancer.

Tal Y, Yaakobi S, Horovitz-Fried M, et al.
An NCR1-based chimeric receptor endows T-cells with multiple anti-tumor specificities.
Oncotarget. 2014; 5(21):10949-58 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The Ral (Ras-like) GTP-binding proteins (RalA and RalB), as effectors of the proto-oncogene Natural killer (NK) cells are an important component of the anti-tumor response. Tumor recognition by NK cells was found to be partly triggered by molecules termed natural cytotoxic receptors (NCRs). Adoptive transfer of genetically-engineered tumor-reactive T-lymphocytes can mediate remarkable tumor regressions mostly in melanoma and leukemia patients. Yet, the application of such treatments to other cancers is needed and dependent on the isolation of receptors that could facilitate efficient recognition of these malignancies. Herein, we aimed at combining NK tumor recognition capability with the genetic modification of T-cells to provide the latter with a means to recognize several tumors in a non-MHC restricted way. Consequently, we generated and evaluated several chimeric receptors based on the extracellular domain of NCR1 (NKp46) fused to multiple signaling moieties and assess their antitumor activity when retrovirally expressed in T-cells. Following co-culture with different tumors, primary human T-lymphocytes expressing a chimeric NCR1 molecule recognized target cells derived from lung, cervical carcinoma, leukemia and pancreatic cancer. In addition, this receptor mediated an upregulation of surface activation markers and significant antitumor cytotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo. These results have meaningful implications for the immunotherapeutic treatment of cancer using gene-modified T-cells.

Zhang Y, Song X, Gong W, et al.
RLIP76 blockade by siRNA inhibits proliferation, enhances apoptosis, and suppresses invasion in HT29 colon cancer cells.
Cell Biochem Biophys. 2015; 71(2):579-85 [PubMed] Related Publications
RLIP76, a multidomain protein which is a downstream effector of the small GTP ases RalA and RalB, is known to play a role in biological activities in a variety of malignant cancer cells. However, little study has been done on the role of RLIP76 in CRC. In this study, a RLIP76-targeted siRNA-containing vector was used to investigate the effect of RLIP76 knockdown on cellular functions in human CRC cell line HT29. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analysis revealed that the expression levels of RLIP76 mRNA and protein in HT29 cells were significantly suppressed after transfection. Our results indicated that RLIP76 downregulation in HT29 CRC cells suppressed cell growth, enhanced cell apoptosis, induced cell cycle arrest, and inhibited cell invasion by decreasing MMP2 expression. Although the mechanisms through which RLIP76 regulates the cellular functions needs further investigation, our results indicate that RLIP76 may represent as a potential target of gene therapy for CRC treatment.

Tecleab A, Zhang X, Sebti SM
Ral GTPase down-regulation stabilizes and reactivates p53 to inhibit malignant transformation.
J Biol Chem. 2014; 289(45):31296-309 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Ral GTPases are critical effectors of Ras, yet the molecular mechanism by which they induce malignant transformation is not well understood. In this study, we found the expression of K-Ras, RalB, and sometimes RalA, but not AKT1/2 and c-Raf, to be required for maintaining low levels of p53 in human cancer cells that harbor mutant K-Ras and wild-type p53. Down-regulation of K-Ras, RalB, and sometimes RalA increases p53 protein levels and results in a p53-dependent up-regulation of the expression of p21(WAF). K-Ras, RalA, and RalB depletion increases p53 stability as demonstrated by ataxia telangiectasia-mutated kinase activation, increased Ser-15 phosphorylation, and a significant (up to 6-fold) increase in p53 half-life. Furthermore, depletion of K-Ras and RalB inhibits anchorage-independent growth and invasion and interferes with cell cycle progression in a p53-dependent manner. Depletion of RalA inhibits invasion in a p53-dependent manner. Thus, expression of K-Ras and RalB and possibly RalA proteins is critical for maintaining low levels of p53, and down-regulation of these GTPases reactivates p53 by significantly enhancing its stability, and this contributes to suppression of malignant transformation.

Kim EY, Kim A, Kim SK, et al.
KRAS oncogene substitutions in Korean NSCLC patients: clinical implication and relationship with pAKT and RalGTPases expression.
Lung Cancer. 2014; 85(2):299-305 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVES: Since different conformation of each KRAS mutant leads to inherent downstream signaling, its distribution, influence on the clinical outcome, and effect on the signaling mediators were investigated in the Korean NSCLC patients whose tumor have KRAS mutation.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Mutation at KRAS codons 12 and 13 was evaluated in 1420 Korean NSCLC by direct sequencing and expression of RalA, RalB, and pAKT-Ser473 was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in 30 cases whose KRAS mutant tumor tissues were available.
RESULTS: Eighty-two (5.8%) out of 1420 patients harbored a KRAS mutation either in codon 12 or 13. Gly12Asp was the most frequent (34.1%), followed by Gly12Cys (22.0%) and Gly12Val (13.4%). Transversion at codons 12 and 13, which includes Gly12Cys, Gly12Val, Gly12Ala, Gly13Cys, and Gly12Phe was detected in 45 cases (54.9%) and transition, including Gly12Asp, Gly12Ser, and Gly13Asp was detected in 37 cases (45.1%). Male and smoking history were associated with transversion (p=0.001 and 0.006, respectively; χ(2)-test), and multivariate analysis showed that gender was an independent influencing factor (p=0.026; Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test). Multivariate analysis on survival revealed that KRAS mutation subtype did not influence overall survival of the patients with KRAS mutations after adjustment for age, gender, performance status, and stage. There were no differences in the nuclear and cytoplasmic expression of pAKT-Ser473 between transversion and transition mutants. Expression of Ral-GTPases, RalA and RalB, did not differ between transversion and transition mutants, however, strong expression of RalB in the tissue of patients with KRAS mutants was associated with advanced stages (P-value=0.020, χ(2)-test).
CONCLUSIONS: In this study population, not only the frequency of KRAS mutation but also the distribution of its subtypes differed from those of Western studies, with unique influencing factors. Clinical outcome and expression of pAKT-Ser473, RalA, and RalB did not differ among subtypes.

Guin S, Ru Y, Wynes MW, et al.
Contributions of KRAS and RAL in non-small-cell lung cancer growth and progression.
J Thorac Oncol. 2013; 8(12):1492-501 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
INTRODUCTION: KRAS mutations are poor prognostic markers for patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). RALA and RALB GTPases lie downstream of RAS and are implicated in RAS-mediated tumorigenesis. However, their biological or prognostic role in the context of KRAS mutation in NSCLC is unclear.
METHODS: Using expression analysis of human tumors and a panel of cell lines coupled with functional in vivo and in vitro experiments, we evaluated the prognostic and functional importance of RAL in NSCLC and their relationship to KRAS expression and mutation.
RESULTS: Immunohistochemical (N = 189) and transcriptomic (N = 337) analyses of NSCLC patients revealed high RALA and RALB expression was associated with poor survival. In a panel of 14 human NSCLC cell lines, RALA and RALB had higher expression in KRAS mutant cell lines whereas RALA but not RALB activity was higher in KRAS mutant cell lines. Depletion of RAL paralogs identified cell lines that are dependent on RAL expression for proliferation and anchorage independent growth. Overall, growth of NSCLC cell lines that carry a glycine to cystine KRAS mutation were more sensitive to RAL depletion than those with wild-type KRAS. The use of gene expression and outcome data from 337 human tumors in RAL-KRAS interaction analysis revealed that KRAS and RAL paralog expression jointly impact patient prognosis.
CONCLUSION: RAL GTPase expression carries important additional prognostic information to KRAS status in NSCLC patients. Simultaneously targeting RAL may provide a novel therapeutic approach in NSCLC patients harboring glycine to cystine KRAS mutations.

Kashatus DF
Ral GTPases in tumorigenesis: emerging from the shadows.
Exp Cell Res. 2013; 319(15):2337-42 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Oncogenic Ras proteins rely on a series of key effector pathways to drive the physiological changes that lead to tumorigenic growth. Of these effector pathways, the RalGEF pathway, which activates the two Ras-related GTPases RalA and RalB, remains the most poorly understood. This review will focus on key developments in our understanding of Ral biology, and will speculate on how aberrant activation of the multiple diverse Ral effector proteins might collectively contribute to oncogenic transformation and other aspects of tumor progression.

Tazat K, Harsat M, Goldshmid-Shagal A, et al.
Dual effects of Ral-activated pathways on p27 localization and TGF-β signaling.
Mol Biol Cell. 2013; 24(11):1812-24 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Constitutive activation or overactivation of Ras signaling pathways contributes to epithelial tumorigenesis in several ways, one of which is cytoplasmic mislocalization of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27(Kip1) (p27). We previously showed that such an effect can be mediated by activation of the Ral-GEF pathway by oncogenic N-Ras. However, the mechanism(s) leading to p27 cytoplasmic accumulation downstream of activated Ral remained unknown. Here, we report a dual regulation of p27 cellular localization by Ral downstream pathways, based on opposing effects via the Ral effectors RalBP1 and phospholipase D1 (PLD1). Because RalA and RalB are equally effective in mislocalizing both murine and human p27, we focus on RalA and murine p27, which lacks the Thr-157 phosphorylation site of human p27. In experiments based on specific RalA and p27 mutants, complemented with short hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of Ral downstream signaling components, we show that activation of RalBP1 induces cytoplasmic accumulation of p27 and that this event requires p27 Ser-10 phosphorylation by protein kinase B/Akt. Of note, activation of PLD1 counteracts this effect in a Ser-10-independent manner. The physiological relevance of the modulation of p27 localization by Ral is demonstrated by the ability of Ral-mediated activation of the RalBP1 pathway to abrogate transforming growth factor-β-mediated growth arrest in epithelial cells.

Smith SC, Baras AS, Owens CR, et al.
Transcriptional signatures of Ral GTPase are associated with aggressive clinicopathologic characteristics in human cancer.
Cancer Res. 2012; 72(14):3480-91 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
RalA and RalB are small GTPases that support malignant development and progression in experimental models of bladder, prostate, and squamous cancer. However, demonstration of their clinical relevance in human tumors remains lacking. Here, we developed tools to evaluate Ral protein expression, activation, and transcriptional output and evaluated their association with clinicopathologic parameters in common human tumor types. To evaluate the relevance of Ral activation and transcriptional output, we correlated RalA and RalB activation with the mutational status of key human bladder cancer genes. We also identified and evaluated a transcriptional signature of genes that correlates with depletion of RalA and RalB in vivo. The Ral transcriptional signature score, but not protein expression as evaluated by immunohistochemistry, predicted disease stage, progression to muscle invasion, and survival in human bladder cancers and metastatic and stem cell phenotypes in bladder cancer models. In prostate cancer, the Ral transcriptional signature score was associated with seminal vesicle invasion, androgen-independent progression, and reduced survival. In squamous cell carcinoma, this score was decreased in cancer tissues compared with normal mucosa, validating the experimental findings that Ral acts as a tumor suppressor in this tumor type. Together, our findings show the clinical relevance of Ral in human cancer and provide a rationale for the development of Ral-directed therapies.

Martin TD, Samuel JC, Routh ED, et al.
Activation and involvement of Ral GTPases in colorectal cancer.
Cancer Res. 2011; 71(1):206-15 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Current approaches to block KRAS oncogene function focus on inhibition of K-Ras downstream effector signaling. We evaluated the antitumor activity of selumetinib (AZD6244, ARRY-142886), a potent and selective MEK1/2 inhibitor, on a panel of colorectal carcinoma (CRC) cells and found no inhibition of KRAS mutant CRC cell anchorage-independent growth. Although AKT activity was elevated in KRAS mutant cells, and PI3K inhibition did impair the growth of MEK inhibitor-insensitive CRC cell lines, concurrent treatment with selumetinib did not provide additional antitumor activity. Therefore, we speculated that inhibition of the Ral guanine exchange factor (RalGEF) effector pathway may be a more effective approach for blocking CRC growth. RalGEFs are activators of the related RalA and RalB small GTPases and we found activation of both in CRC cell lines and patient tumors. Interfering RNA stable suppression of RalA expression reduced CRC tumor cell anchorage-independent growth, but surprisingly, stable suppression of RalB greatly enhanced soft agar colony size and formation frequency. Despite their opposing activities, both RalA and RalB regulation of anchorage-independent growth required interaction with RalBP1/RLIP76 and components of the exocyst complex. Interestingly, RalA interaction with the Exo84 but not Sec5 exocyst component was necessary for supporting anchorage-independent growth, whereas RalB interaction with Sec5 but not Exo84 was necessary for inhibition of anchorage-independent growth. We suggest that anti-RalA-selective therapies may provide an effective approach for KRAS mutant CRC.

Sowalsky AG, Alt-Holland A, Shamis Y, et al.
RalA function in dermal fibroblasts is required for the progression of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Cancer Res. 2011; 71(3):758-67 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
A large body of evidence has shown that stromal cells play a significant role in determining the fate of neighboring tumor cells through the secretion of various cytokines. How cytokine secretion by stromal cells is regulated in this context is poorly understood. In this study, we used a bioengineered human tissue model of skin squamous cell carcinoma progression to reveal that RalA function in dermal fibroblasts is required for tumor progression of neighboring neoplastic keratinocytes. This conclusion is based on the observations that suppression of RalA expression in dermal fibroblasts blocked tumorigenic keratinocytes from invading into the dermal compartment of engineered tissues and suppressed more advanced tumor progression after these tissues were transplanted onto the dorsum of mice. RalA executes this tumor-promoting function of dermal fibroblasts, at least in part, by mediating hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) secretion through its effector proteins, the Sec5 and Exo84 subunits of the exocyst complex. These findings reveal a new level of HGF regulation and highlight the RalA signaling cascade in dermal fibroblasts as a potential anticancer target.

Hector A, Montgomery EA, Karikari C, et al.
The Axl receptor tyrosine kinase is an adverse prognostic factor and a therapeutic target in esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Cancer Biol Ther. 2010; 10(10):1009-18 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) arises in the backdrop of reflux-induced metaplastic phenomenon known as Barrett esophagus. The prognosis of advanced EAC is dismal, and there is an urgent need for identifying molecular targets for therapy. Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE) was performed on metachronous mucosal biopsies from a patient who underwent progression to EAC during endoscopic surveillance. SAGE confirmed significant upregulation of Axl "tags" during the multistep progression of Barrett esophagus to EAC. In a cohort of 92 surgically resected EACs, Axl overexpression was associated with shortened median survival on both univariate (p < 0.004) and multivariate (p < 0.036) analysis. Genetic knockdown of Axl receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) function was enabled in two EAC lines (OE33 and JH-EsoAd1) using lentiviral short hairpin RNA (shRNA). Genetic knockdown of Axl in EAC cell lines inhibited invasion, migration, and in vivo engraftment, which was accompanied by downregulation in the activity of the Ral GTPase proteins (RalA and RalB). Restoration of Ral activation rescued the transformed phenotype of EAC cell lines, suggesting a novel effector mechanism for Axl in cancer cells. Pharmacological inhibition of Axl was enabled using a small molecule antagonist, R428 (Rigel Pharmaceuticals). Pharmacological inhibition of Axl with R428 in EAC cell lines significantly reduced anchorage-independent growth, invasion and migration. Blockade of Axl function abrogated phosphorylation of ERBB2 (Her-2/neu) at the Tyr877 residue, indicative of receptor crosstalk. Axl RTK is an adverse prognostic factor in EAC. The availability of small molecule inhibitors of Axl function provides a tractable strategy for molecular therapy of established EAC.

Vigil D, Martin TD, Williams F, et al.
Aberrant overexpression of the Rgl2 Ral small GTPase-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factor promotes pancreatic cancer growth through Ral-dependent and Ral-independent mechanisms.
J Biol Chem. 2010; 285(45):34729-40 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Our recent studies established essential and distinct roles for RalA and RalB small GTPase activation in K-Ras mutant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cell line tumorigencity, invasion, and metastasis. However, the mechanism of Ral GTPase activation in PDAC has not been determined. There are four highly related mammalian RalGEFs (RalGDS, Rgl1, Rgl2, and Rgl3) that can serve as Ras effectors. Whether or not they share distinct or overlapping functions in K-Ras-mediated growth transformation has not been explored. We found that plasma membrane targeting to mimic persistent Ras activation enhanced the growth-transforming activities of RalGEFs. Unexpectedly, transforming activity did not correlate directly with total cell steady-state levels of Ral activation. Next, we observed elevated Rgl2 expression in PDAC tumor tissue and cell lines. Expression of dominant negative Ral, which blocks RalGEF function, as well as interfering RNA suppression of Rgl2, reduced PDAC cell line steady-state Ral activity, growth in soft agar, and Matrigel invasion. Surprisingly, the effect of Rgl2 on anchorage-independent growth could not be rescued by constitutively activated RalA, suggesting a novel Ral-independent function for Rgl2 in transformation. Finally, we determined that Rgl2 and RalB both localized to the leading edge, and this localization of RalB was dependent on endogenous Rgl2 expression. In summary, our observations support nonredundant roles for RalGEFs in Ras-mediated oncogenesis and a key role for Rgl2 in Ral activation and Ral-independent PDAC growth.

Kidd AR, Snider JL, Martin TD, et al.
Ras-related small GTPases RalA and RalB regulate cellular survival after ionizing radiation.
Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2010; 78(1):205-12 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
PURPOSE: Oncogenic activation of Ras renders cancer cells resistant to ionizing radiation (IR), but the mechanisms have not been fully characterized. The Ras-like small GTPases RalA and RalB are downstream effectors of Ras function and are critical for both tumor growth and survival. The Ral effector RalBP1/RLIP76 mediates survival of mice after whole-body irradiation, but the role of the Ral GTPases themselves in response to IR is unknown. We have investigated the role of RalA and RalB in cellular responses to IR.
METHODS AND MATERIALS: RalA, RalB, and their major effectors RalBP1 and Sec5 were knocked down by stable expression of short hairpin RNAs in the K-Ras-dependent pancreatic cancer-derived cell line MIA PaCa-2. Radiation responses were measured by standard clonogenic survival assays for reproductive survival, gammaH2AX expression for double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs), and poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) cleavage for apoptosis.
RESULTS: Knockdown of K-Ras, RalA, or RalB reduced colony-forming ability post-IR, and knockdown of either Ral isoform decreased the rate of DSB repair post-IR. However, knockdown of RalB, but not RalA, increased cell death. Surprisingly, neither RalBP1 nor Sec5 suppression affected colony formation post-IR.
CONCLUSIONS: Both RalA and RalB contribute to K-Ras-dependent IR resistance of MIA PaCa-2 cells. Sensitization due to suppressed Ral expression is likely due in part to decreased efficiency of DNA repair (RalA and RalB) and increased susceptibility to apoptosis (RalB). Ral-mediated radioresistance does not depend on either the RalBP1 or the exocyst complex, the two best-characterized Ral effectors, and instead may utilize an atypical or novel effector.

Zipfel PA, Brady DC, Kashatus DF, et al.
Ral activation promotes melanomagenesis.
Oncogene. 2010; 29(34):4859-64 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Up to one-third of human melanomas are characterized by an oncogenic mutation in the gene encoding the small guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) NRAS. Ras proteins activate three primary classes of effectors, namely, Rafs, phosphatidyl-inositol-3-kinases (PI3Ks) and Ral guanine exchange factors (RalGEFs). In melanomas lacking NRAS mutations, the first two effectors can still be activated through an oncogenic BRAF mutation coupled with a loss of the PI3K negative regulator PTEN. This suggests that Ras effectors promote melanoma, regardless of whether they are activated by oncogenic NRas. The only major Ras effector pathway not explored for its role in melanoma is the RalGEF-Ral pathway, in which Ras activation of RalGEFs converts the small GTPases RalA and RalB to an active guanosine triphosphate-bound state. We report that RalA is activated in several human melanoma cancer cell lines harboring an oncogenic NRAS allele, an oncogenic BRAF allele or wild-type NRAS and BRAF alleles. Furthermore, short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown of RalA, and to a lesser extent of RalB, variably inhibited the tumorigenic growth of melanoma cell lines having these three genotypes. Thus, as is the case for Raf and PI3 K signaling, Rals also contribute to melanoma tumorigenesis.

Feldmann G, Mishra A, Hong SM, et al.
Inhibiting the cyclin-dependent kinase CDK5 blocks pancreatic cancer formation and progression through the suppression of Ras-Ral signaling.
Cancer Res. 2010; 70(11):4460-9 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5), a neuronal kinase that functions in migration, has been found to be activated in some human cancers in which it has been implicated in promoting metastasis. In this study, we investigated the role of CDK5 in pancreatic cancers in which metastatic disease is most common at diagnosis. CDK5 was widely active in pancreatic cancer cells. Functional ablation significantly inhibited invasion, migration, and anchorage-independent growth in vitro, and orthotopic tumor formation and systemic metastases in vivo. CDK5 blockade resulted in the profound inhibition of Ras signaling through its critical effectors RalA and RalB. Conversely, restoring Ral function rescued the effects of CDK5 inhibition in pancreatic cancer cells. Our findings identify CDK5 as a pharmacologically tractable target to degrade Ras signaling in pancreatic cancer.

Issaq SH, Lim KH, Counter CM
Sec5 and Exo84 foster oncogenic ras-mediated tumorigenesis.
Mol Cancer Res. 2010; 8(2):223-31 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The genes encoding the Ras family of small GTPases are mutated to yield constitutively active GTP-bound oncogenic proteins in one third of all human cancers. Oncogenic Ras binds to and activates a number of proteins that promote tumorigenic phenotypes, including the family of Ral guanine nucleotide exchange factors (RalGEF). Activated RalGEFs convert the Ral family of small GTPases, composed of RalA and RalB, from an inactive GDP-bound state to an active GTP-bound state. As both RalA and RalB have been implicated in a variety of tumorigenic phenotypes, we sought to determine which proteins downstream of Rals promote transformation and tumorigenesis. Here, we report that shRNA-mediated knockdown of the Ral effector proteins Sec5 and Exo84, but less so in the case of RalBP1, reduced oncogenic RalGEF-mediated transformation and oncogenic Ras-driven tumorigenic growth of human cells. These results suggest that Rals promote oncogenic Ras-mediated tumorigenesis through, at least in part, Sec5 and Exo84.

Yue P, Forrest WF, Kaminker JS, et al.
Inferring the functional effects of mutation through clusters of mutations in homologous proteins.
Hum Mutat. 2010; 31(3):264-71 [PubMed] Related Publications
Inferring functional consequences is a bottleneck in high-throughput cancer mutation discovery and genetic association studies. Most polymorphisms and germline mutations are unlikely to have functionally significant consequences. Most cancer somatic mutations do not contribute to tumorigenesis and are not under selective pressure. Identifying and understanding functionally important mutations can clarify disease biology and lead to new therapeutic and diagnostic opportunities. We investigated the extent to which protein mutations with functional consequences are enriched in clusters at conserved positions across related proteins. We found that disease-causing mutations form clusters more than random mutations or single nucleotide polymorphisms, confirming that mutation hotspots occur at the domain level. In addition to helping to identify functionally significant mutations, analysis of clustered mutations can indicate the mechanism and consequences for protein function. Our analysis focused on somatic cancer mutations suggests functional impact for many, including singleton mutations in FGFR1, FGFR3, GFI1B, PIK3CG, RALB, RAP2B, and STK11. This provides evidence and generates mechanistic hypotheses for the contribution of such mutations to cancer. The same approach can be applied to mutations suspected of involvement in other diseases. An interactive Web application for browsing mutation clusters is available at http://www.mcluster.org.

Sowalsky AG, Alt-Holland A, Shamis Y, et al.
RalA suppresses early stages of Ras-induced squamous cell carcinoma progression.
Oncogene. 2010; 29(1):45-55 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Ras proteins activate Raf and PI-3 kinases, as well as exchange factors for RalA and RalB GTPases. Many previous studies have reported that the Ral-signaling cascade contributes positively to Ras-mediated oncogenesis. Here, using a bioengineered tissue model of early steps in Ras-induced human squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, we found the opposite. Conversion of Ras-expressing keratinocytes from a premalignant to malignant state induced by decreasing E-cadherin function was associated with and required an approximately two to threefold decrease in RalA expression. Moreover, direct knockdown of RalA to a similar degree by shRNA expression in these cells reduced E-cadherin levels and also induced progression to a malignant phenotype. Knockdown of the Ral effector, Exo84, mimicked the effects of decreasing RalA levels in these engineered tissues. These phenomena can be explained by our finding that the stability of E-cadherin in Ras-expressing keratinocytes depends upon this RalA signaling cascade. These results imply that an important component of the early stages in squamous carcinoma progression may be a modest decrease in RalA gene expression that magnifies the effects of decreased E-cadherin expression by promoting its degradation.

de Gorter DJ, Reijmers RM, Beuling EA, et al.
The small GTPase Ral mediates SDF-1-induced migration of B cells and multiple myeloma cells.
Blood. 2008; 111(7):3364-72 [PubMed] Related Publications
Chemokine-controlled migration plays a critical role in B-cell development, differentiation, and function, as well as in the pathogenesis of B-cell malignancies, including the plasma cell neoplasm multiple myeloma (MM). Here, we demonstrate that stimulation of B cells and MM cells with the chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) induces strong migration and activation of the Ras-like GTPase Ral. Inhibition of Ral, by expression of the dominant negative RalN28 mutant or of RalBPDeltaGAP, a Ral effector mutant that sequesters active Ral, results in impaired SDF-1-induced migration of B cells and MM cells. Of the 2 Ral isoforms, RalA and RalB, RalB was found to mediate SDF-1-induced migration. We have recently shown that Btk, PLCgamma2, and Lyn/Syk mediate SDF-1-controlled B-cell migration; however, SDF-1-induced Ral activation is not affected in B cells deficient in these proteins. In addition, treatment with pharmacological inhibitors against PI3K and PLC or expression of dominant-negative Ras did not impair SDF-1-induced Ral activation. Taken together, these results reveal a novel function for Ral, that is, regulation of SDF-1-induced migration of B cells and MM cells, thereby providing new insights into the control of B-cell homeostasis, trafficking, and function, as well as into the pathogenesis of MM.

Bodemann BO, White MA
Ral GTPases and cancer: linchpin support of the tumorigenic platform.
Nat Rev Cancer. 2008; 8(2):133-40 [PubMed] Related Publications
A confluence of recent observations has indicted the Ras-family G-proteins RALA and RALB as key offenders in the subversion of core biological systems driving oncogenic transformation. Here, we will focus on current developments highlighting the pivotal contribution of Ral proteins to the regulatory framework supporting tumorigenesis, and evaluate mechanistic connections between Ral effector activation and generation of this framework.

Yin J, Pollock C, Tracy K, et al.
Activation of the RalGEF/Ral pathway promotes prostate cancer metastasis to bone.
Mol Cell Biol. 2007; 27(21):7538-50 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
A hallmark of metastasis is organ specificity; however, little is known about the underlying signaling pathways responsible for the colonization and growth of tumor cells in target organs. Since tyrosine kinase receptor activation is frequently associated with prostate cancer progression, we have investigated the role of a common signaling intermediary, activated Ras, in prostate cancer metastasis. Three effector pathways downstream of Ras, Raf/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, and Ral guanine nucleotide exchange factors (RalGEFs), were assayed for their ability to promote the metastasis of a tumorigenic, nonmetastatic human prostate cancer cell line, DU145. Oncogenic Ras promoted the metastasis of DU145 to multiple organs, including bone and brain. Activation of the Raf/ERK pathway stimulated metastatic colonization of the brain, while activation of the RalGEF pathway led to bone metastases, the most common organ site for prostate cancer metastasis. In addition, loss of RalA in the metastatic PC3 cell line inhibited bone metastasis but did not affect subcutaneous tumor growth. Loss of Ral appeared to suppress expansive growth of prostate cancer cells in bone, whereas homing and initial colonization were less affected. These data extend our understanding of the functional roles of the Ral pathway and begin to identify signaling pathways relevant for organ-specific metastasis.

Smith SC, Oxford G, Baras AS, et al.
Expression of ral GTPases, their effectors, and activators in human bladder cancer.
Clin Cancer Res. 2007; 13(13):3803-13 [PubMed] Related Publications
PURPOSE: The Ral family of small G proteins has been implicated in tumorigenesis, invasion, and metastasis in in vitro and animal model systems; however, a systematic evaluation of the state of activation, mutation, or expression of these GTPases has not been reported in any tumor type.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We determined the activation state of the RalA and RalB paralogs in 10 bladder cancer cell lines with varying Ras mutation status. We sequenced RalA and RalB cDNAs from 20 bladder cancer cell lines and functionally evaluated the mutations found. We determined the expression of Ral, Ral activators, and Ral effectors on the level of mRNA or protein in human bladder cancer cell lines and tissues.
RESULTS: We uncovered one E97Q substitution mutation of RalA in 1 of 20 cell lines tested and higher Ral activation in cells harboring mutant HRAS. We found overexpression of mRNAs for RalA and Aurora-A, a mitotic kinase that activates RalA, in bladder cancer (both P < 0.001), and in association with tumors of higher stage and grade. RalBP1, a canonical Ral effector, mRNA and protein was overexpressed in bladder cancer (P < 0.001), whereas Filamin A was underexpressed (P = 0.004). We determined that RalA mRNA levels correlated significantly with protein levels (P < 0.001) and found protein overexpression of both GTPases in homogenized invasive cancers. Available data sets suggest that RalA mRNA is also overexpressed in seminoma, glioblastoma, and carcinomas of the liver, pancreas, and prostate.
CONCLUSION: These findings of activation and differential expression of RalA and RalB anchor prior work in model systems to human disease and suggest therapeutic strategies targeting both GTPases in this pathway may be beneficial.

Oxford G, Smith SC, Hampton G, Theodorescu D
Expression profiling of Ral-depleted bladder cancer cells identifies RREB-1 as a novel transcriptional Ral effector.
Oncogene. 2007; 26(50):7143-52 [PubMed] Related Publications
Although the monomeric GTPases RalA and RalB have been shown to regulate a variety of transcription factors, little is known regarding the differences or similarities in transcriptional programs regulated by RalA compared to RalB. Further, the association of these transcriptional pathways to human carcinogenesis and progression remains unclear. Here, we studied the role of RalA and/or RalB in transcriptional regulation by combining short interfering RNA depletion of Ral with gene expression profiling via microarray in the human bladder cancer cell line, UMUC-3. A large number of genes were found to be similarly modulated in cells with RalA and RalB depletion, suggesting that RalA and RalB impinge on overlapping transcriptional signaling pathways. However, smaller sets of genes were modulated by depletion of RalA or RalB, indicating that these closely related proteins also regulate nonoverlapping transcriptional pathways. Computational analysis of upstream sequences of genes modulated by Ral depletion identified Ras-responsive element-binding protein (RREB)-1, as a putative Ral transcriptional target, which we verified experimentally. Importantly, as a group, Ral-regulated probe sets identified here were disproportionally represented among those differentially expressed as a function of human bladder transformation. Taken together, these data strongly suggest that Ral family members mediate both common and specific transcriptional programs that are associated with human cancer and identify RREB-1 as a novel transcriptional effector of Ral.

Baines AT, Lim KH, Shields JM, et al.
Use of retrovirus expression of interfering RNA to determine the contribution of activated K-Ras and ras effector expression to human tumor cell growth.
Methods Enzymol. 2006; 407:556-74 [PubMed] Related Publications
Cancer is a multistep genetic process that includes mutational activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. The Ras oncogenes are the most frequently mutated oncogenes in human cancers (30%), with a high frequency associated with cancers of the lung, colon, and pancreas. Mutational activation of Ras is commonly an early event in the development of these cancers. Thus, whether mutated Ras is required for tumor maintenance and what aspects of the complex malignant phenotype might be promoted by mutated Ras are issues that remain unresolved for these and other human cancers. The recent development of interfering RNA to selectively impair expression of mutated Ras provides a powerful approach to begin to resolve these issues. In this chapter, we describe the use of retrovirus-based RNA interference approaches to study the functions of Ras and Ras effectors (Raf, RalA, RalB, and Tiam1) in the growth of pancreatic carcinoma and other human tumor cell lines. Finally, we also compare the use of constitutive and inducible shRNA expression vectors for analyses of mutant Ras function.

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