Defects in the c-ret proto-oncogene, a member of the protein tyrosine kinase receptor family, have recently been linked to two types of genetic syndromes, Hirschsprung's disease and the multiple endocrine neoplasia family of inherited cancers. RET/ptc2 is the product of a papillary thyroid carcinoma translocation event between the genes coding for c-ret and the type Iα regulatory subunit of protein kinase A (RIα) (Lanzi, C., Borrello, M., Bongarzone, I., Migliazza, A., Fusco, A., Grieco, M., Santoro, M., Gambetta, R., Zunino, F., Della Ports, G., and Pierotti, M. (1992) Oncogene 7, 2189- 2194). The resulting 596-residue protein contains the first two-thirds of RIα and the entire tyrosine kinase domain of c-ret (RET(tk)). An in vivo assay of growth stimulatory effects was developed, which consisted of microinjecting a RET/ptc2 expression plasmid into the nuclei of 10T1/2 mouse fibroblasts and observing the incorporation of 5-bromodeoxyuridine. This assay was used to determine that only the dimerization domain of RIα fused to RET(tk) is required for RET/ptc2's mitogenic activity. In addition, all of the reported Hirschsprung's disease point mutations in the RET(tk) (S289P, R421Q, and R496G) inactivate RET/ptc2 in our assay, confirming that these are loss of function mutations. Two tyrosines outside the conserved kinase core were also identified that are essential for full mitogenic activity of RET/ptc2. These two tyrosines, Tyr-350 and Tyr-586, are potential sites for Src homology 2 and phosphotyrosine binding domain interactions.
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