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: 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: Bad is a proapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family that promotes cell death by displacing Bax from binding to Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL (1,2). Survival factors, such as IL-3, inhibit the apoptotic activity of Bad by activating intracellular signaling pathways that result in the phosphorylation of Bad at Ser112 and Ser136 (2). Phosphorylation at these sites promotes binding of Bad to 14-3-3 proteins to prevent an association between Bad with Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL (2). Akt phosphorylates Bad at Ser136 to promote cell survival (3,4). Bad is phosphorylated at Ser112 both in vivo and in vitro by p90RSK (5,6) and mitochondria-anchored PKA (7). Phosphorylation at Ser155 in the BH3 domain by PKA plays a critical role in blocking the dimerization of Bad and Bcl-xL (8-10).
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: 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.