Differential requirement of CAAX-mediated posttranslational processing for Rheb localization and signaling

A. B. Hanker, N. Mitin, R. S. Wilder, E. P. Henske, F. Tamanoi, A. D. Cox, C. J. Der

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The Rheb1 and Rheb2 small GTPases and their effector mTOR are aberrantly activated in human cancer and are attractive targets for anti-cancer drug discovery. Rheb is targeted to endomembranes via its C-terminal CAAX (C=cysteine, A=aliphatic, X=terminal amino acid) motif, a substrate for posttranslational modification by a farnesyl isoprenoid. After farnesylation, Rheb undergoes two additional CAAX-signaled processing steps, Ras converting enzyme 1 (Rce1)-catalyzed cleavage of the AAX residues and isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (Icmt)-mediated carboxylmethylation of the farnesylated cysteine. However, whether these postprenylation processing steps are required for Rheb signaling through mTOR is not known. We found that Rheb1 and Rheb2 localize primarily to the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus. We determined that Icmt and Rce1 processing is required for Rheb localization, but is dispensable for Rheb-induced activation of the mTOR substrate p70 S6 kinase (S6K). Finally, we evaluated whether farnesylthiosalicylic acid (FTS) blocks Rheb localization and function. Surprisingly, FTS prevented S6K activation induced by a constitutively active mTOR mutant, indicating that FTS inhibits mTOR at a level downstream of Rheb. We conclude that inhibitors of Icmt and Rce1 will not block Rheb function, but FTS could be a promising treatment for Rheb-and mTOR-dependent cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-391
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase (Icmt)
  • MTOR
  • Ras converting enzyme 1(Rce1)
  • Rheb
  • S-trans,trans-farnesylthiosalicylic acid (FTS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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