Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is a widely expressed nonreceptor tyrosine kinase found in focal adhesions. FAK has been indicated as a point of convergence of other signaling pathways including platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptors, and recently, FAK tyrosine phosphorylation has been shown to be stimulated by PDGF. In the present study we assessed the role of Ras as a possible intermediate protein regulating PDGF-induced FAK tyrosine phosphorylation in human hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), liver-specific pericytes primarily involved in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis. For this purpose, cells were first subjected to retroviral-mediated gene transfer with a dominant-negative mutant of Ras (N17Ras). This resulted in a marked inhibition of PDGF-induced FAK tyrosine phosphorylation together with the expected reduction of PDGF-induced extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity (ERK). Afterward, the effects of pharmacological agents potentially affecting Ras isoprenylation were evaluated. PDGF-induced FAK tyrosine phosphorylation, ERK activity and intracellular calcium increase, as well as the biological effects of this growth factor, (i.e., mitogenesis and cell migration) were effectively blocked by GGTI-298, an inhibitor of geranylgeranyltransferase I. Inhibition of Ras processing obtained with FTI- 277, an inhibitor of farnesyltransferase, resulted in detectable effects only at high doses. Taken together, these results establish that Ras operates as a protein-linking PDGF-β receptor to FAK in human HscS, and that signaling molecules requiring geranylgeranylation may also be involved in this process.
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