M-Ras evolved independently of R-Ras and its neural function is conserved between mammalian and ascidian, which lacks classical Ras

Etsuko Keduka, Ai Kaiho, Mayuko Hamada, Haruko Watanabe-Takano, Kazunori Takano, Michio Ogasawara, Yutaka Satou, Nori Satoh, Takeshi Endo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The Ras family small GTPases play a variety of essential roles in eukaryotes. Among them, classical Ras (H-Ras, K-Ras, and N-Ras) and its orthologues are conserved from yeast to human. In ascidians, which phylogenetically exist between invertebrates and vertebrates, the fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-Ras-MAP kinase signaling is required for the induction of neural system, notochord, and mesenchyme. Analyses of DNA databases revealed that no gene encoding classical Ras is present in the ascidians, Ciona intestinalis and Halocynthia roretzi, despite the presence of classical Ras-orthologous genes in nematode, fly, amphioxus, and fish. By contrast, both the ascidians contain single genes orthologous to Mras, Rras, Ral, Rap1, and Rap2. A single Mras orthologue exists from nematode to mammalian. Thus, Mras evolved in metazoans independently of other Ras family genes such as Rras. Whole-mount in situ hybridization showed that C. intestinalis Mras orthologue (Ci-Mras) was expressed in the neural complex of the ascidian juveniles after metamorphosis. Knockdown of Ci-Mras with morpholino antisense oligonucleotides in the embryos and larvae resulted in undeveloped tails and neuronal pigment cells, abrogation of the notochord marker brachyury expression, and perturbation of the neural marker Otx expression, as has been shown in the experiments of the FGF-Ras-MAP kinase signaling inhibition. Mammalian Ras and M-Ras mediate nerve growth factor-induced neuronal differentiation in rat PC12 cells by activating the ERK/MAP kinase pathway transiently and sustainedly, respectively. Activated Ci-M-Ras bound to target proteins of mammalian M-Ras and Ras. Exogenous expression of an activated Ci-M-Ras in PC12 cells caused ERK activation and induced neuritogenesis via the ERK pathway as do mammalian M-Ras and Ras. These results suggest that the ascidian M-Ras orthologue compensates for lacked classical Ras and plays essential roles in neurogenesis in the ascidian.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Ascidian
  • M-Ras
  • MAP kinase signaling
  • Neurogenesis
  • Ras family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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