Mathematical modeling of K-Ras nanocluster formation on the plasma membrane

Tianhai Tian, Sarah Plowman, Robert Parton, Yoel Kloog, John Hancock

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33 Citations (Scopus)


K-Ras functions as a critical node in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway that regulates key cellular functions including proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Following growth factor receptor activation K-Ras.GTP forms nanoclusters on the plasma membrane through interaction with the scaffold protein galectin-3. The generation of nanoclusters is essential for high fidelity signal transduction via the MAPK pathway. To explore the mechanisms underlying K-Ras.GTP nanocluster formation, we developed a mathematical model of K-Ras-galectin-3 interactions. We designed a computational method to calculate protein collision rates based on experimentally determined protein diffusion rates and diffusion mechanisms and used a genetic algorithm to search the values of key model parameters. The optimal estimated model parameters were validated using experimental data. The resulting model accurately replicates critical features of K-Ras nanoclustering, including a fixed ratio of clustered K-Ras.GTP to monomeric K-Ras.GTP that is independent of the concentration of K-Ras.GTP. The model reproduces experimental results showing that the cytosolic level of galectin-3 determines the magnitude of the K-Ras.GTP clustered fraction and illustrates that nanoclustering is regulated by key nonequilibrium processes. Our kinetic model identifies a potential biophysical mechanism for K-Ras nanoclustering and suggests general principles that may be relevant for other plasma-membrane-localized proteins
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534 - 543
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

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