Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Manuel A. Barbieri

Abstract

Ras is a proto-oncogene that codes for a small GTPase and is responsible for linking several extracellular signals to intracellular mechanisms that involve cell growth, differentiation and cell-programmed death in normal and diseased cells. In all these processes, Ras has been extensively investigated. However, the role of Ras GTPases is still poorly understood during the differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes. In this study I investigated the role of the H-Ras defective mutant, Ras:G12V on the differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes. Preadipocytes were differentiated in vitro to adipocytes (fat cells) by adding an induction medium containing several factors including glucose and insulin. The formation of fat cells evidenced by the visualization of lipid drops as well as by quantifying the accumulation of Oil red O into lipid drops. To examine the role of Ras:G12V mutant, several selective mutations were introduced in order to determine the signaling transduction pathways (i.e., PI3(K)kinase and MAP(K)Kinase) responsible for the Ras-dependent adipogenesis. Cells expressing Ras:G12V mutant stimulated 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation without he need for induction media, suggesting that Ras activation is an essential factor required for 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation. Introduction of a second mutation on Ras:G12V (i.e., Ras:G12V;E37G), which blocks the activation of the MAPKinase pathway, strongly inhibited the 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation. It is also important to note Ras:G12V:E37G double mutant does not inhibit the activation of the PI3kinase pathway. Other Ras double mutants (Ras:G12V;S35T, and V12G;C40Y) showed a modest inhibition of the 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation. Taken together, these observations indicate that Ras plays a selective role in 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation. Thus, understanding which specific pathway Ras employs during preadipocyte differentiation could clarify some of the uncertainties surrounding fat production.

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