Ras genes encode proteins that play a central role in cell growth signaling cascades. The fish ras genes characterized to date, have a high degree of nucleotide sequence and deduced amino acid similarity with the mammalian ras gene counterparts. A large proportion and wide variety of mammalian tumors possess mutant forms of ras. In such cases, the localization of ras mutations has been restricted to exons I and II, and to codons 12, 13 and 61. Experimental exposure of fish to a range of genotoxic compounds has similarly led to the production of a ras mutational profile for selected species. The inducing compound, tissue investigated and the fish species studied affect the ras mutational spectrum and incidence observed, despite the apparent conserved sequence homology. Furthermore, the fish ras mutational profile differs from that observed in rodent models, including a novel codon (16) mutation. The role of ras genes in tumor formation in feral fish has been investigated using several species collected from areas of high hydrocarbon contamination. Tomcod (Microgadus tomcod), winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) and dragonet (Callionymus lyra) liver samples display evidence of ras gene mutations, though for the latter species the codon affected is not characteristic of ras gene mutational profiles. English sole (Pleuronectes vetulus) and European flounder (Platichthys flesus) liver tumor samples so far examined, on the other hand, do not display ras gene mutations. Thus, the pattern and incidence of ras gene mutations in environmentally-induced tumors also appear to be species specific. In determining the basis of both the species susceptibility observed in the field and species differences in effects of laboratory controlled exposures, the interaction of fish ras genes with other components of the cell growth signaling cascade (such as protein kinase C, additional oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes) are discussed. The effect of promoting agents following contaminant-induced initiation could similarly provide answers in unraveling the question of species susceptibility.
- ras gene