RasGRP1 is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Ras that binds with high affinity to diacylglycerol analogs like the phorbol esters. Recently, we demonstrated a role for RasGRP1 in skin carcinogenesis and suggested its participation in the action of tumor-promoting phorbol esters like 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) on Ras pathways in epidermal cells. Given the importance of Ras in carcinogenesis, we sought to discern whether RasGRP1 was a critical pathway in Ras activation, using a RasGRP1 knockout (KO) mouse model to examine the response of keratinocytes to TPA. In contrast to the effect seen in wild type keratinocytes, RasGTP levels were barely detected in RasGRP1 KO cells even after 60 min of exposure to phorbol esters. The lack of response was rescued by enforced expression of RasGRP1. Furthermore, small hairpin RNA-induced silencing of RasGRP1 abrogated the effect of TPA on Ras. Analysis of Ras isoforms showed that both H-Ras and N-Ras depended on RasGRP1 for activation by TPA, whereas activation of K-Ras could not be detected. Although RasGRP1 was dispensable for ERK activation in response to TPA, JNK activation was reduced in the KO keratinocytes. Notably, TPA-induced phosphorylation of JNK2, but not JNK1, was reduced by RasGRP1 depletion. These data identify RasGRP1 as a critical molecule in the activation of Ras by TPA in primary mouse keratinocytes and suggest JNK2 as one of the relevant downstream targets. Given the role of TPA as a skin tumor promoter, our findings provide additional support for a role for RasGRP1 in skin carcinogenesis
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