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: 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: Type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) is a transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinase that is widely expressed in many cell lines and cell types within fetal and postnatal tissues (1-3). Receptor autophosphorylation follows binding of the IGF-I and IGF-II ligands. Three tyrosine residues within the kinase domain (Tyr1131, Tyr1135, and Tyr1136) are the earliest major autophosphorylation sites (4). Phosphorylation of these three tyrosine residues is necessary for kinase activation (5,6). Insulin receptors (IRs) share significant structural and functional similarity with IGF-I receptors, including the presence of an equivalent tyrosine cluster (Tyr1146/1150/1151) within the kinase domain activation loop. Tyrosine autophosphorylation of IRs is one of the earliest cellular responses to insulin stimulation (7). Autophosphorylation begins with phosphorylation at Tyr1146 and either Tyr1150 or Tyr1151, while full kinase activation requires triple tyrosine phosphorylation (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: Members of the Janus family of tyrosine kinases (Jak1, Jak2, Jak3, and Tyk2) are activated by ligands binding to a number of associated cytokine receptors (1). Upon cytokine receptor activation, Jak proteins become autophosphorylated and phosphorylate their associated receptors to provide multiple binding sites for signaling proteins. These associated signaling proteins, such as Stats (2), Shc (3), insulin receptor substrates (4), and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) (5), typically contain SH2 or other phospho-tyrosine-binding domains.
Background: The epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor is a transmembrane tyrosine kinase that belongs to the HER/ErbB protein family. Ligand binding results in receptor dimerization, autophosphorylation, activation of downstream signaling, internalization, and lysosomal degradation (1,2). Phosphorylation of EGF receptor (EGFR) at Tyr845 in the kinase domain is implicated in stabilizing the activation loop, maintaining the active state enzyme, and providing a binding surface for substrate proteins (3,4). c-Src is involved in phosphorylation of EGFR at Tyr845 (5). The SH2 domain of PLCγ binds at phospho-Tyr992, resulting in activation of PLCγ-mediated downstream signaling (6). Phosphorylation of EGFR at Tyr1045 creates a major docking site for the adaptor protein c-Cbl, leading to receptor ubiquitination and degradation following EGFR activation (7,8). The GRB2 adaptor protein binds activated EGFR at phospho-Tyr1068 (9). A pair of phosphorylated EGFR residues (Tyr1148 and Tyr1173) provide a docking site for the Shc scaffold protein, with both sites involved in MAP kinase signaling activation (2). Phosphorylation of EGFR at specific serine and threonine residues attenuates EGFR kinase activity. EGFR carboxy-terminal residues Ser1046 and Ser1047 are phosphorylated by CaM kinase II; mutation of either of these serines results in upregulated EGFR tyrosine autophosphorylation (10).
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: CaMKII is an important member of the calcium/calmodulin-activated protein kinase family, functioning in neural synaptic stimulation and T cell receptor signaling (1,2). CaMKII has catalytic and regulatory domains. Ca2+/calmodulin binding to the CaMKII regulatory domain relieves autoinhibition and activates the kinase (3). The activated CaMKII further autophosphorylates at Thr286 to render the kinase constitutively active (3). The threonine phosphorylation state of CaMKII can be regulated through PP1/PKA. PP1 (protein phosphatase 1) dephosphorylates phospho-CaMKII at Thr286. PKA (protein kinase A) prevents phospho-CaMKII (Thr286) dephosphorylation through an inhibitory effect on PP1 (4).