DIRAS3 is an imprinted tumor suppressor gene that encodes a 26 kDa GTPase with 60% amino acid homology to RAS, but with a distinctive 34 amino acid N-terminal extension required to block RAS function. DIRAS3 is maternally imprinted and expressed only from the paternal allele in normal cells. Loss of expression can occur in a single “hit” through multiple mechanisms. Downregulation of DIRAS3 occurs in cancers of the ovary, breast, lung, prostate, colon, brain, and thyroid. Reexpression of DIRAS3 inhibits signaling through PI3 kinase/AKT, JAK/STAT, and RAS/MAPK, blocking malignant transformation, inhibiting cancer cell growth and motility, and preventing angiogenesis. DIRAS3 is a unique endogenous RAS inhibitor that binds directly to RAS, disrupting RAS dimers and clusters, and preventing RAS-induced transformation. DIRAS3 is essential for autophagy and triggers this process through multiple mechanisms. Reexpression of DIRAS3 induces dormancy in a nu/nu mouse xenograft model of ovarian cancer, inhibiting cancer cell growth and angiogenesis. DIRAS3-mediated induction of autophagy facilitates the survival of dormant cancer cells in a nutrient-poor environment. DIRAS3 expression in dormant, drug-resistant autophagic cancer cells can serve as a biomarker and as a target for novel therapy to eliminate the residual disease that remains after conventional therapy.

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