Differential regulation of N-Myc and c-Myc synthesis, degradation, and transcriptional activity by the Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway.
ABSTRACT Myc transcription factors are important regulators of proliferation and can promote oncogenesis when deregulated. Deregulated Myc expression in cancers can result from MYC gene amplification and translocation but also from alterations in mitogenic signaling pathways that affect Myc levels through both transcriptional and post-transcription mechanisms. For example, mutations in Ras family GTPase proteins that cause their constitutive activation can increase cellular levels of c-Myc by interfering with its rapid proteasomal degradation. Although enhanced protein stability is generally thought to be applicable to other Myc family members, here we show that c-Myc and its paralog N-Myc respond to oncogenic H-Ras (H-Ras(G12V)) in very different ways. H-Ras(G12V) promotes accumulation of both c-Myc and N-Myc, but although c-Myc accumulation is achieved by enhanced protein stability, N-Myc accumulation is associated with an accelerated rate of translation that overcomes a surprising H-Ras(G12V)-mediated destabilization of N-Myc. We show that H-Ras(G12V)-mediated degradation of N-Myc functions independently of key phosphorylation sites in the highly conserved Myc homology box I region that controls c-Myc protein stability by oncogenic Ras. Finally, we found that N-Myc and c-Myc transcriptional activity is associated with their proteasomal degradation but that N-Myc may be uniquely dependent on Ras-stimulated proteolysis for target gene expression. Taken together, these studies provide mechanistic insight into how oncogenic Ras augments N-Myc levels in cells and suggest that enhanced N-Myc translation and degradation-coupled transactivation may contribute to oncogenesis.