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: α-Synuclein is a protein of 140-amino acids expressed abundantly in the brain. α-Synuclein is also the main component of pathogenic Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites. Research studies have shown that mutations of the α-synuclein gene are linked to Parkinson's disease (1).
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 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: 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: 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).
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: Protein kinase-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) is an eIF2α kinase and transmembrane protein resident in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane that couples ER stress signals to translation inhibition (1-3). ER stress increases the activity of PERK, which then phosphorylates eIF2α to promote reduced translation. Research studies have demonstrated that PERK-deficient mice have defects in pancreatic β cells several weeks after birth, suggesting a role for PERK-mediated translational control in protecting secretory cells from ER stress (4). PERK activation during ER stress correlates with autophosphorylation of its cytoplasmic kinase domain (1-3). Phosphorylation of PERK at Thr980 serves as a marker for its activation status.