Rap1-mediated activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases by cyclic AMP is dependent on the mode of Rap1 activation

Zhiping Wang, Tara J. Dillon, Viji Pokala, Snigdha Mishra, Kirstin Labudda, Brian Hunter, Philip J.S. Stork

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Like other small G proteins of the Ras superfamily, Rap1 is activated by distinct guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) in response to different signals to elicit cellular responses. Activation of Rap1 by cyclic AMP (cAMP) can occur via cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA)-independent and PKA-dependent mechanisms. PKA-independent activation of Rap1 by cAMP is mediated by direct binding of cAMP to Rap1-guanine nucleotide exchange factors (Rap1-GEFs) Epac1 (exchange protein directly activated by cAMP 1) and Epac2 (Epac1 and Epac2 are also called cAMP-GEFI and -GEFII). The availability of cAMP analogues that selectively activate Epacs, but not PKA, provides a specific tool to activate Rap1. It has been argued that the inability of these analogues to regulate extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) signaling despite activating Rap1 provides evidence that Rap1 is incapable of regulating ERKs. We confirm that the PKA-independent activation of Rap1 by Epac1 activates a perinuclear pool of Rap1 and that this does not result in ERK activation. However, we demonstrate that this inability to regulate ERKs is not a property of Rap1 but is rather a property of Epacs themselves. The addition of a membrane-targeting motif to Epac1 (Epac-CAAX) relocalizes Epac1 from its normal perinuclear locale to the plasma membrane. In this new locale it is capable of activating ERKs in a Rap1- and cAMP-dependent manner. Rap1 activation by Epac-CAAX, but not wild-type Epac, triggers its association with B-Raf. Therefore, we propose that its intracellular localization prevents Epac1 from activating ERKs. C3G (Crk SH3 domain Guanine nucleotide exchanger) is a Rap1 exchanger that is targeted to the plasma membrane upon activation. We show that C3G can be localized to the plasma membrane by cAMP/PKA, as can Rap1 when activated by cAMP/PKA. Using a small interfering RNA approach, we demonstrate that C3G is required for the activation of ERKs and Rap1 by cAMP/PKA. This activation requires the GTP-dependent association of Rap1 with B-Raf. These data demonstrate that B-Raf is a physiological target of Rap1, but its utilization as a Rap1 effector is GEF specific. We propose a model that specific GEFs activate distinct pools of Rap1 that are differentially coupled to downstream effectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2130-2145
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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