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: The stress-activated protein kinase/Jun-amino-terminal kinase SAPK/JNK is potently and preferentially activated by a variety of environmental stresses including UV and gamma radiation, ceramides, inflammatory cytokines, and in some instances, growth factors and GPCR agonists (1-6). As with the other MAPKs, the core signaling unit is composed of a MAPKKK, typically MEKK1-MEKK4, or by one of the mixed lineage kinases (MLKs), which phosphorylate and activate MKK4/7. Upon activation, MKKs phosphorylate and activate the SAPK/JNK kinase (2). Stress signals are delivered to this cascade by small GTPases of the Rho family (Rac, Rho, cdc42) (3). Both Rac1 and cdc42 mediate the stimulation of MEKKs and MLKs (3). Alternatively, MKK4/7 can be activated in a GTPase-independent mechanism via stimulation of a germinal center kinase (GCK) family member (4). There are three SAPK/JNK genes each of which undergoes alternative splicing, resulting in numerous isoforms (3). SAPK/JNK, when active as a dimer, can translocate to the nucleus and regulate transcription through its effects on c-Jun, ATF-2, and other transcription factors (3,5).
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).