Background: The family of Trk receptor tyrosine kinases consists of TrkA, TrkB, and TrkC. While the sequence of these family members is highly conserved, they are activated by different neurotrophins: TrkA by NGF, TrkB by BDNF or NT4, and TrkC by NT3 (1). Neurotrophin signaling through these receptors regulates a number of physiological processes, such as cell survival, proliferation, neural development, and axon and dendrite growth and patterning (1). In the adult nervous system, the Trk receptors regulate synaptic strength and plasticity. TrkA regulates proliferation and is important for development and maturation of the nervous system (2). Phosphorylation at Tyr490 is required for Shc association and activation of the Ras-MAP kinase cascade (3,4). Residues Tyr674/675 lie within the catalytic domain, and phosphorylation at these sites reflects TrkA kinase activity (3-6). Point mutations, deletions, and chromosomal rearrangements (chimeras) cause ligand-independent receptor dimerization and activation of TrkA (7-10). TrkA is activated in many malignancies including breast, ovarian, prostate, and thyroid carcinomas (8-13). Research studies suggest that expression of TrkA in neuroblastomas may be a good prognostic marker as TrkA signals growth arrest and differentiation of cells originating from the neural crest (10).
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.