ERK2 Phosphorylates PFAS to Mediate Posttranslational Control of De Novo Purine Synthesis

Eunus S. Ali, Umakant Sahu, Elodie Villa, Brendan P. O'Hara, Peng Gao, Cynthia Beaudet, Antony W. Wood, John M. Asara, Issam Ben-Sahra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The RAS-ERK/MAPK (RAS-extracellular signal-regulated kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase) pathway integrates growth-promoting signals to stimulate cell growth and proliferation, at least in part, through alterations in metabolic gene expression. However, examples of direct and rapid regulation of the metabolic pathways by the RAS-ERK pathway remain elusive. We find that physiological and oncogenic ERK signaling activation leads to acute metabolic flux stimulation through the de novo purine synthesis pathway, thereby increasing building block availability for RNA and DNA synthesis, which is required for cell growth and proliferation. We demonstrate that ERK2, but not ERK1, phosphorylates the purine synthesis enzyme PFAS (phosphoribosylformylglycinamidine synthase) at T619 in cells to stimulate de novo purine synthesis. The expression of nonphosphorylatable PFAS (T619A) decreases purine synthesis, RAS-dependent cancer cell-colony formation, and tumor growth. Thus, ERK2-mediated PFAS phosphorylation facilitates the increase in nucleic acid synthesis required for anabolic cell growth and proliferation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1191.e6
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • cancer
  • ERK
  • FGAM
  • MAPK
  • nucleotide synthesis
  • PFAS
  • posttranslational modification
  • purine metabolism
  • RAS
  • tumor growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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