Background: LKB1 (STK11) is a serine/threonine kinase and tumor suppressor that helps control cell structure, apoptosis and energy homeostasis through regulation of numerous downstream kinases (1,2). A cytosolic protein complex comprised of LKB1, putative kinase STRAD, and the MO25 scaffold protein, activates both AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and several AMPK-related kinases (3). AMPK plays a predominant role as the master regulator of cellular energy homeostasis, controlling downstream effectors that regulate cell growth and apoptosis in response to cellular ATP concentrations (4). LKB1 appears to be phosphorylated in cells at several sites, including human LKB1 at Ser31/325/428 and Thr189/336/363 (5).Mutation in the corresponding LKB1 gene causes Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS), an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by benign GI tract polyps and dark skin lesions of the mouth, hands, and feet (6). A variety of other LKB1 gene mutations have been associated with the formation of sporadic cancers in several tissues (7).
Background: Caspase-3 (CPP-32, Apoptain, Yama, SCA-1) is a critical executioner of apoptosis, as it is either partially or totally responsible for the proteolytic cleavage of many key proteins, such as the nuclear enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) (1). Activation of caspase-3 requires proteolytic processing of its inactive zymogen into activated p17 and p12 fragments. Cleavage of caspase-3 requires the aspartic acid residue at the P1 position (2).
Background: The Stat3 transcription factor is an important signaling molecule for many cytokines and growth factor receptors (1) and is required for murine fetal development (2). Research studies have shown that Stat3 is constitutively activated in a number of human tumors (3,4) and possesses oncogenic potential (5) and anti-apoptotic activities (3). Stat3 is activated by phosphorylation at Tyr705, which induces dimerization, nuclear translocation, and DNA binding (6,7). Transcriptional activation seems to be regulated by phosphorylation at Ser727 through the MAPK or mTOR pathways (8,9). Stat3 isoform expression appears to reflect biological function as the relative expression levels of Stat3α (86 kDa) and Stat3β (79 kDa) depend on cell type, ligand exposure, or cell maturation stage (10). It is notable that Stat3β lacks the serine phosphorylation site within the carboxy-terminal transcriptional activation domain (8).
Background: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is highly conserved from yeast to plants and animals and plays a key role in the regulation of energy homeostasis (1). AMPK is a heterotrimeric complex composed of a catalytic α subunit and regulatory β and γ subunits, each of which is encoded by two or three distinct genes (α1, 2; β1, 2; γ1, 2, 3) (2). The kinase is activated by an elevated AMP/ATP ratio due to cellular and environmental stress, such as heat shock, hypoxia, and ischemia (1). The tumor suppressor LKB1, in association with accessory proteins STRAD and MO25, phosphorylates AMPKα at Thr172 in the activation loop, and this phosphorylation is required for AMPK activation (3-5). AMPKα is also phosphorylated at Thr258 and Ser485 (for α1; Ser491 for α2). The upstream kinase and the biological significance of these phosphorylation events have yet to be elucidated (6). The β1 subunit is post-translationally modified by myristoylation and multi-site phosphorylation including Ser24/25, Ser96, Ser101, Ser108, and Ser182 (6,7). Phosphorylation at Ser108 of the β1 subunit seems to be required for the activation of AMPK enzyme, while phosphorylation at Ser24/25 and Ser182 affects AMPK localization (7). Several mutations in AMPKγ subunits have been identified, most of which are located in the putative AMP/ATP binding sites (CBS or Bateman domains). Mutations at these sites lead to reduction of AMPK activity and cause glycogen accumulation in heart or skeletal muscle (1,2). Accumulating evidence indicates that AMPK not only regulates the metabolism of fatty acids and glycogen, but also modulates protein synthesis and cell growth through EF2 and TSC2/mTOR pathways, as well as blood flow via eNOS/nNOS (1).
Background: The Stat1 transcription factor is activated in response to a large number of ligands (1) and is essential for responsiveness to IFN-α and IFN-γ (2,3). Phosphorylation of Stat1 at Tyr701 induces Stat1 dimerization, nuclear translocation, and DNA binding (4). Stat1 protein exists as a pair of isoforms, Stat1α (91 kDa) and the splice variant Stat1β (84 kDa). In most cells, both isoforms are activated by IFN-α, but only Stat1α is activated by IFN-γ. The inappropriate activation of Stat1 occurs in many tumors (5). In addition to tyrosine phosphorylation, Stat1 is also phosphorylated at Ser727 through a p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-dependent pathway in response to IFN-α and other cellular stresses (6). Serine phosphorylation may be required for the maximal induction of Stat1-mediated gene activation.
Background: Syk is a protein tyrosine kinase that plays an important role in intracellular signal transduction in hematopoietic cells (1-3). Syk interacts with immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs) located in the cytoplasmic domains of immune receptors (4). It couples the activated immunoreceptors to downstream signaling events that mediate diverse cellular responses, including proliferation, differentiation, and phagocytosis (4). There is also evidence of a role for Syk in nonimmune cells and investigators have indicated that Syk is a potential tumor suppressor in human breast carcinomas (5). Tyr323 is a negative regulatory phosphorylation site within the SH2-kinase linker region in Syk. Phosphorylation at Tyr323 provides a direct binding site for the TKB domain of Cbl (6,7). Tyr352 of Syk is involved in the association of PLCγ1 (8). Tyr525 and Tyr526 are located in the activation loop of the Syk kinase domain; phosphorylation at Tyr525/526 of human Syk (equivalent to Tyr519/520 of mouse Syk) is essential for Syk function (9).
Background: Embryonic stem cells (ESC) derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst are unique in their pluripotent capacity and potential for self-renewal (1). Research studies demonstrate that a set of transcription factors that includes Oct-4, Sox2, and Nanog forms a transcriptional network that maintains cells in a pluripotent state (2,3). Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments show that Sox2 and Oct-4 bind to thousands of gene regulatory sites, many of which regulate cell pluripotency and early embryonic development (4,5). siRNA knockdown of either Sox2 or Oct-4 results in loss of pluripotency (6). Induced overexpression of Oct-4 and Sox2, along with additional transcription factors Klf4 and c-Myc, can reprogram both mouse and human somatic cells to a pluripotent state (7,8). Additional evidence demonstrates that Sox2 is also present in adult multipotent progenitors that give rise to some adult epithelial tissues, including several glands, the glandular stomach, testes, and cervix. Sox2 is thought to regulate target gene expression important for survival and regeneration of these tissues (9).
Background: MEK1 and MEK2, also called MAPK or Erk kinases, are dual-specificity protein kinases that function in a mitogen activated protein kinase cascade controlling cell growth and differentiation (1-3). Activation of MEK1 and MEK2 occurs through phosphorylation of two serine residues at positions 217 and 221, located in the activation loop of subdomain VIII, by Raf-like molecules. MEK1/2 is activated by a wide variety of growth factors and cytokines and also by membrane depolarization and calcium influx (1-4). Constitutively active forms of MEK1/2 are sufficient for the transformation of NIH/3T3 cells or the differentiation of PC-12 cells (4). MEK activates p44 and p42 MAP kinase by phosphorylating both threonine and tyrosine residues at sites located within the activation loop of kinase subdomain VIII.
Background: Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) was initially identified as an enzyme that regulates glycogen synthesis in response to insulin (1). GSK-3 is a ubiquitously expressed serine/threonine protein kinase that phosphorylates and inactivates glycogen synthase. GSK-3 is a critical downstream element of the PI3K/Akt cell survival pathway whose activity can be inhibited by Akt-mediated phosphorylation at Ser21 of GSK-3α and Ser9 of GSK-3β (2,3). GSK-3 has been implicated in the regulation of cell fate in Dictyostelium and is a component of the Wnt signaling pathway required for Drosophila, Xenopus, and mammalian development (4). GSK-3 has been shown to regulate cyclin D1 proteolysis and subcellular localization (5).
Background: The NF-κB/Rel transcription factors are present in the cytosol in an inactive state complexed with the inhibitory IκB proteins (1-3). Activation occurs via phosphorylation of IκBα at Ser32 and Ser36 followed by proteasome-mediated degradation that results in the release and nuclear translocation of active NF-κB (3-7). IκBα phosphorylation and resulting Rel-dependent transcription are activated by a highly diverse group of extracellular signals including inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and chemokines. Kinases that phosphorylate IκB at these activating sites have been identified (8).
Background: β-Catenin is a key downstream effector in the Wnt signaling pathway (1). It is implicated in two major biological processes in vertebrates: early embryonic development (2) and tumorigenesis (3). CK1 phosphorylates β-catenin at Ser45. This phosphorylation event primes β-catenin for subsequent phosphorylation by GSK-3β (4-6). GSK-3β destabilizes β-catenin by phosphorylating it at Ser33, Ser37, and Thr41 (7). Mutations at these sites result in the stabilization of β-catenin protein levels and have been found in many tumor cell lines (8).
Background: DARPP-32 (dopamine and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein, relative molecular mass 32,000) is a cytosolic protein highly enriched in medium-sized spiny neurons of the neostriatum (1). It is a bifunctional signaling molecule that controls serine/threonine kinase and serine/threonine phosphatase activity (2). Dopamine stimulates phosphorylation of DARPP-32 through D1 receptors and activation of PKA. PKA phosphorylation of DARPP-32 at Thr34 converts it into an inhibitor of protein phosphatase 1 (1). DARPP-32 is converted into an inhibitor of PKA when phosphorylated at Thr75 by cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5) (2). Mice containing a targeted deletion of the DARPP-32 gene exhibit an altered biochemical, electrophysiological, and behavioral phenotype (3).
Background: The receptor-interacting protein (RIP) family of serine-threonine kinases (RIP, RIP2, RIP3, and RIP4) are important regulators of cellular stress that trigger pro-survival and inflammatory responses through the activation of NF-κB, as well as pro-apoptotic pathways (1). In addition to the kinase domain, RIP contains a death domain responsible for interaction with the death domain receptor Fas and recruitment to TNF-R1 through interaction with TRADD (2,3). RIP-deficient cells show a failure in TNF-mediated NF-κB activation, making the cells more sensitive to apoptosis (4,5). RIP also interacts with TNF-receptor-associated factors (TRAFs) and can recruit IKKs to the TNF-R1 signaling complex via interaction with NEMO, leading to IκB phosphorylation and degradation (6,7). Overexpression of RIP induces both NF-κB activation and apoptosis (2,3). Caspase-8-dependent cleavage of the RIP death domain can trigger the apoptotic activity of RIP (8).
Background: Necroptosis, a regulated pathway for necrotic cell death, is triggered by a number of inflammatory signals including cytokines in the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family, pathogen sensors such as toll-like receptors (TLRs), and ischemic injury (1,2). The process is negatively regulated by caspases and is initiated through a complex containing the RIP1 and RIP3 kinases, typically referred to as the necrosome. Mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein (MLKL) is a pseudokinase that was identified as downstream target of RIP3 in the necroptosis pathway (3,4). During necroptosis RIP3 is phosphorylated at Ser227, which recruits MLKL and leads to its phosphorylation at Thr357 and Ser358 (3). Knockdown of MLKL through multiple mechanisms results in inhibition of necroptosis (3-5). While the precise mechanism for MLKL-induced necroptosis is unclear, some studies have shown that necroptosis leads to oligomerization of MLKL and translocation to the plasma membrane, where it effects membrane integrity (6-9).
Background: Two related serine/threonine kinases, UNC-51-like kinase 1 and 2 (ULK1, ULK2), were discovered as mammalian homologs of the C. elegans gene UNC-51 in which mutants exhibited abnormal axonal extension and growth (1-4). Both proteins are widely expressed and contain an amino-terminal kinase domain followed by a central proline/serine rich domain and a highly conserved carboxy-terminal domain. The roles of ULK1 and ULK2 in axon growth have been linked to studies showing that the kinases are localized to neuronal growth cones and are involved in endocytosis of critical growth factors, such as NGF (5). Yeast two-hybrid studies found ULK1/2 associated with modulators of the endocytic pathway, SynGAP and syntenin (6). Structural similarity of ULK1/2 has also been recognized with the yeast autophagy protein Atg1/Apg1 (7). Knockdown experiments using siRNA demonstrated that ULK1 is essential for autophagy (8), a catabolic process for the degradation of bulk cytoplasmic contents (9,10). It appears that Atg1/ULK1 can act as a convergence point for multiple signals that control autophagy (11), and can bind to several autophagy-related (Atg) proteins, regulating phosphorylation states and protein trafficking (12-16).
Background: Akt, also referred to as PKB or Rac, plays a critical role in controlling survival and apoptosis (1-3). This protein kinase is activated by insulin and various growth and survival factors to function in a wortmannin-sensitive pathway involving PI3 kinase (2,3). Akt is activated by phospholipid binding and activation loop phosphorylation at Thr308 by PDK1 (4) and by phosphorylation within the carboxy terminus at Ser473. The previously elusive PDK2 responsible for phosphorylation of Akt at Ser473 has been identified as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in a rapamycin-insensitive complex with rictor and Sin1 (5,6). Akt promotes cell survival by inhibiting apoptosis through phosphorylation and inactivation of several targets, including Bad (7), forkhead transcription factors (8), c-Raf (9), and caspase-9. PTEN phosphatase is a major negative regulator of the PI3 kinase/Akt signaling pathway (10). LY294002 is a specific PI3 kinase inhibitor (11). Another essential Akt function is the regulation of glycogen synthesis through phosphorylation and inactivation of GSK-3α and β (12,13). Akt may also play a role in insulin stimulation of glucose transport (12). In addition to its role in survival and glycogen synthesis, Akt is involved in cell cycle regulation by preventing GSK-3β-mediated phosphorylation and degradation of cyclin D1 (14) and by negatively regulating the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p27 Kip1 (15) and p21 Waf1/Cip1 (16). Akt also plays a critical role in cell growth by directly phosphorylating mTOR in a rapamycin-sensitive complex containing raptor (17). More importantly, Akt phosphorylates and inactivates tuberin (TSC2), an inhibitor of mTOR within the mTOR-raptor complex (18,19).
Background: Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are a widely conserved family of serine/threonine protein kinases involved in many cellular programs, such as cell proliferation, differentiation, motility, and death. The p44/42 MAPK (Erk1/2) signaling pathway can be activated in response to a diverse range of extracellular stimuli including mitogens, growth factors, and cytokines (1-3), and research investigators consider it an important target in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer (4). Upon stimulation, a sequential three-part protein kinase cascade is initiated, consisting of a MAP kinase kinase kinase (MAPKKK or MAP3K), a MAP kinase kinase (MAPKK or MAP2K), and a MAP kinase (MAPK). Multiple p44/42 MAP3Ks have been identified, including members of the Raf family, as well as Mos and Tpl2/COT. MEK1 and MEK2 are the primary MAPKKs in this pathway (5,6). MEK1 and MEK2 activate p44 and p42 through phosphorylation of activation loop residues Thr202/Tyr204 and Thr185/Tyr187, respectively. Several downstream targets of p44/42 have been identified, including p90RSK (7) and the transcription factor Elk-1 (8,9). p44/42 are negatively regulated by a family of dual-specificity (Thr/Tyr) MAPK phosphatases, known as DUSPs or MKPs (10), along with MEK inhibitors, such as U0126 and PD98059.
Background: p38 MAP kinase (MAPK), also called RK (1) or CSBP (2), is the mammalian orthologue of the yeast HOG kinase that participates in a signaling cascade controlling cellular responses to cytokines and stress (1-4). Four isoforms of p38 MAPK, p38α, β, γ (also known as Erk6 or SAPK3), and δ (also known as SAPK4) have been identified. Similar to the SAPK/JNK pathway, p38 MAPK is activated by a variety of cellular stresses including osmotic shock, inflammatory cytokines, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), UV light, and growth factors (1-5). MKK3, MKK6, and SEK activate p38 MAPK by phosphorylation at Thr180 and Tyr182. Activated p38 MAPK has been shown to phosphorylate and activate MAPKAP kinase 2 (3) and to phosphorylate the transcription factors ATF-2 (5), Max (6), and MEF2 (5-8). SB203580 (4-(4-fluorophenyl)-2-(4-methylsulfinylphenyl)-5-(4-pyridyl)-imidazole) is a selective inhibitor of p38 MAPK. This compound inhibits the activation of MAPKAPK-2 by p38 MAPK and subsequent phosphorylation of HSP27 (9). SB203580 inhibits p38 MAPK catalytic activity by binding to the ATP-binding pocket, but does not inhibit phosphorylation of p38 MAPK by upstream kinases (10).
Background: One way that growth factors and mitogens effectively promote sustained cell growth and proliferation is by upregulating mRNA translation (1,2). Growth factors and mitogens induce the activation of p70 S6 kinase and the subsequent phosphorylation of the S6 ribosomal protein. Phosphorylation of S6 ribosomal protein correlates with an increase in translation of mRNA transcripts that contain an oligopyrimidine tract in their 5' untranslated regions (2). These particular mRNA transcripts (5'TOP) encode proteins involved in cell cycle progression, as well as ribosomal proteins and elongation factors necessary for translation (2,3). Important S6 ribosomal protein phosphorylation sites include several residues (Ser235, Ser236, Ser240, and Ser244) located within a small, carboxy-terminal region of the S6 protein (4,5).
Background: p70 S6 kinase is a mitogen activated Ser/Thr protein kinase that is required for cell growth and G1 cell cycle progression (1,2). p70 S6 kinase phosphorylates the S6 protein of the 40S ribosomal subunit and is involved in translational control of 5' oligopyrimidine tract mRNAs (1). A second isoform, p85 S6 kinase, is derived from the same gene and is identical to p70 S6 kinase except for 23 extra residues at the amino terminus, which encode a nuclear localizing signal (1). Both isoforms lie on a mitogen activated signaling pathway downstream of phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI-3K) and the target of rapamycin, FRAP/mTOR, a pathway distinct from the Ras/MAP kinase cascade (1). The activity of p70 S6 kinase is controlled by multiple phosphorylation events located within the catalytic, linker and pseudosubstrate domains (1). Phosphorylation of Thr229 in the catalytic domain and Thr389 in the linker domain are most critical for kinase function (1). Phosphorylation of Thr389, however, most closely correlates with p70 kinase activity in vivo (3). Prior phosphorylation of Thr389 is required for the action of phosphoinositide 3-dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1) on Thr229 (4,5). Phosphorylation of this site is stimulated by growth factors such as insulin, EGF and FGF, as well as by serum and some G-protein-coupled receptor ligands, and is blocked by wortmannin, LY294002 (PI-3K inhibitor) and rapamycin (FRAP/mTOR inhibitor) (1,6,7). Ser411, Thr421 and Ser424 lie within a Ser-Pro-rich region located in the pseudosubstrate region (1). Phosphorylation at these sites is thought to activate p70 S6 kinase via relief of pseudosubstrate suppression (1,2). Another LY294002 and rapamycin sensitive phosphorylation site, Ser371, is an in vitro substrate for mTOR and correlates well with the activity of a partially rapamycin resistant mutant p70 S6 kinase (8).