Background: LKB1 (STK11) is a serine/threonine kinase and tumor suppressor that helps control cell structure, apoptosis and energy homeostasis through regulation of numerous downstream kinases (1,2). A cytosolic protein complex comprised of LKB1, putative kinase STRAD, and the MO25 scaffold protein, activates both AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and several AMPK-related kinases (3). AMPK plays a predominant role as the master regulator of cellular energy homeostasis, controlling downstream effectors that regulate cell growth and apoptosis in response to cellular ATP concentrations (4). LKB1 appears to be phosphorylated in cells at several sites, including human LKB1 at Ser31/325/428 and Thr189/336/363 (5).Mutation in the corresponding LKB1 gene causes Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS), an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by benign GI tract polyps and dark skin lesions of the mouth, hands, and feet (6). A variety of other LKB1 gene mutations have been associated with the formation of sporadic cancers in several tissues (7).
Background: Caspase-3 (CPP-32, Apoptain, Yama, SCA-1) is a critical executioner of apoptosis, as it is either partially or totally responsible for the proteolytic cleavage of many key proteins, such as the nuclear enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) (1). Activation of caspase-3 requires proteolytic processing of its inactive zymogen into activated p17 and p12 fragments. Cleavage of caspase-3 requires the aspartic acid residue at the P1 position (2).
Background: The Stat3 transcription factor is an important signaling molecule for many cytokines and growth factor receptors (1) and is required for murine fetal development (2). Research studies have shown that Stat3 is constitutively activated in a number of human tumors (3,4) and possesses oncogenic potential (5) and anti-apoptotic activities (3). Stat3 is activated by phosphorylation at Tyr705, which induces dimerization, nuclear translocation, and DNA binding (6,7). Transcriptional activation seems to be regulated by phosphorylation at Ser727 through the MAPK or mTOR pathways (8,9). Stat3 isoform expression appears to reflect biological function as the relative expression levels of Stat3α (86 kDa) and Stat3β (79 kDa) depend on cell type, ligand exposure, or cell maturation stage (10). It is notable that Stat3β lacks the serine phosphorylation site within the carboxy-terminal transcriptional activation domain (8).
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: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is highly conserved from yeast to plants and animals and plays a key role in the regulation of energy homeostasis (1). AMPK is a heterotrimeric complex composed of a catalytic α subunit and regulatory β and γ subunits, each of which is encoded by two or three distinct genes (α1, 2; β1, 2; γ1, 2, 3) (2). The kinase is activated by an elevated AMP/ATP ratio due to cellular and environmental stress, such as heat shock, hypoxia, and ischemia (1). The tumor suppressor LKB1, in association with accessory proteins STRAD and MO25, phosphorylates AMPKα at Thr172 in the activation loop, and this phosphorylation is required for AMPK activation (3-5). AMPKα is also phosphorylated at Thr258 and Ser485 (for α1; Ser491 for α2). The upstream kinase and the biological significance of these phosphorylation events have yet to be elucidated (6). The β1 subunit is post-translationally modified by myristoylation and multi-site phosphorylation including Ser24/25, Ser96, Ser101, Ser108, and Ser182 (6,7). Phosphorylation at Ser108 of the β1 subunit seems to be required for the activation of AMPK enzyme, while phosphorylation at Ser24/25 and Ser182 affects AMPK localization (7). Several mutations in AMPKγ subunits have been identified, most of which are located in the putative AMP/ATP binding sites (CBS or Bateman domains). Mutations at these sites lead to reduction of AMPK activity and cause glycogen accumulation in heart or skeletal muscle (1,2). Accumulating evidence indicates that AMPK not only regulates the metabolism of fatty acids and glycogen, but also modulates protein synthesis and cell growth through EF2 and TSC2/mTOR pathways, as well as blood flow via eNOS/nNOS (1).
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: 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: Stat5 is activated in response to a wide variety of ligands including IL-2, GM-CSF, growth hormone and prolactin. Phosphorylation at Tyr694 is obligatory for Stat5 activation (1,2). This phosphorylation is mediated by Src upon erythropoietin stimulation (3). Stat5 is constitutively active in some leukemic cell types (4). Phosphorylated Stat5 is found in some endothelial cells treated with IL-3, which suggests its involvement in angiogenesis and cell motility (5). Stat5a and Stat5b are independently regulated and activated in various cell types. For instance, interferon treatment predominantly activates Stat5a in U-937 cells and Stat5b in HeLa cells (6).
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: The NF-κB/Rel transcription factors are present in the cytosol in an inactive state complexed with the inhibitory IκB proteins (1-3). Activation occurs via phosphorylation of IκBα at Ser32 and Ser36 followed by proteasome-mediated degradation that results in the release and nuclear translocation of active NF-κB (3-7). IκBα phosphorylation and resulting Rel-dependent transcription are activated by a highly diverse group of extracellular signals including inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and chemokines. Kinases that phosphorylate IκB at these activating sites have been identified (8).
Background: c-Jun is a member of the Jun family containing c-Jun, JunB, and JunD, and is a component of the transcription factor activator protein-1 (AP-1). AP-1 is composed of dimers of Fos, Jun, and ATF family members and binds to and activates transcription at TRE/AP-1 elements (reviewed in 1). Extracellular signals including growth factors, chemokines, and stress activate AP-1-dependent transcription. The transcriptional activity of c-Jun is regulated by phosphorylation at Ser63 and Ser73 through SAPK/JNK (reviewed in 2). Knock-out studies in mice have shown that c-Jun is essential for embryogenesis (3), and subsequent studies have demonstrated roles for c-Jun in various tissues and developmental processes including axon regeneration (4), liver regeneration (5), and T cell development (6). AP-1 regulated genes exert diverse biological functions including cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis, as well as transformation, invasion and metastasis, depending on cell type and context (7-9). Other target genes regulate survival, as well as hypoxia and angiogenesis (8,10). Research studies have implicated c-Jun as a promising therapeutic target for cancer, vascular remodeling, acute inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis (11,12).
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: PARP, a 116 kDa nuclear poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, appears to be involved in DNA repair in response to environmental stress (1). This protein can be cleaved by many ICE-like caspases in vitro (2,3) and is one of the main cleavage targets of caspase-3 in vivo (4,5). In human PARP, the cleavage occurs between Asp214 and Gly215, which separates the PARP amino-terminal DNA binding domain (24 kDa) from the carboxy-terminal catalytic domain (89 kDa) (2,4). PARP helps cells to maintain their viability; cleavage of PARP facilitates cellular disassembly and serves as a marker of cells undergoing apoptosis (6).
Background: Modulation of chromatin structure plays an important role in the regulation of transcription in eukaryotes. The nucleosome, made up of DNA wound around eight core histone proteins (two each of H2A, H2B, H3, and H4), is the primary building block of chromatin (1). The amino-terminal tails of core histones undergo various post-translational modifications, including acetylation, phosphorylation, methylation, and ubiquitination (2-5). These modifications occur in response to various stimuli and have a direct effect on the accessibility of chromatin to transcription factors and, therefore, gene expression (6). In most species, histone H2B is primarily acetylated at Lys5, 12, 15, and 20 (4,7). Histone H3 is primarily acetylated at Lys9, 14, 18, 23, 27, and 56. Acetylation of H3 at Lys9 appears to have a dominant role in histone deposition and chromatin assembly in some organisms (2,3). Phosphorylation at Ser10, Ser28, and Thr11 of histone H3 is tightly correlated with chromosome condensation during both mitosis and meiosis (8-10). Phosphorylation at Thr3 of histone H3 is highly conserved among many species and is catalyzed by the kinase haspin. Immunostaining with phospho-specific antibodies in mammalian cells reveals mitotic phosphorylation at Thr3 of H3 in prophase and its dephosphorylation during anaphase (11).
Background: Tau is a heterogeneous microtubule-associated protein that promotes and stabilizes microtubule assembly, especially in axons. Six isoforms with different amino-terminal inserts and different numbers of tandem repeats near the carboxy terminus have been identified, and tau is hyperphosphorylated at approximately 25 sites by Erk, GSK-3, and CDK5 (1,2). Phosphorylation decreases the ability of tau to bind to microtubules. Neurofibrillary tangles are a major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease; these tangles are bundles of paired helical filaments composed of hyperphosphorylated tau. In particular, phosphorylation at Ser396 by GSK-3 or CDK5 destabilizes microtubules. Furthermore, research studies have shown that inclusions of tau are found in a number of other neurodegenerative diseases, collectively known as tauopathies (1,3).
Background: Syk is a protein tyrosine kinase that plays an important role in intracellular signal transduction in hematopoietic cells (1-3). Syk interacts with immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs) located in the cytoplasmic domains of immune receptors (4). It couples the activated immunoreceptors to downstream signaling events that mediate diverse cellular responses, including proliferation, differentiation, and phagocytosis (4). There is also evidence of a role for Syk in nonimmune cells and investigators have indicated that Syk is a potential tumor suppressor in human breast carcinomas (5). Tyr323 is a negative regulatory phosphorylation site within the SH2-kinase linker region in Syk. Phosphorylation at Tyr323 provides a direct binding site for the TKB domain of Cbl (6,7). Tyr352 of Syk is involved in the association of PLCγ1 (8). Tyr525 and Tyr526 are located in the activation loop of the Syk kinase domain; phosphorylation at Tyr525/526 of human Syk (equivalent to Tyr519/520 of mouse Syk) is essential for Syk function (9).
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: Akt, also referred to as PKB or Rac, plays a critical role in controlling survival and apoptosis (1-3). This protein kinase is activated by insulin and various growth and survival factors to function in a wortmannin-sensitive pathway involving PI3 kinase (2,3). Akt is activated by phospholipid binding and activation loop phosphorylation at Thr308 by PDK1 (4) and by phosphorylation within the carboxy terminus at Ser473. The previously elusive PDK2 responsible for phosphorylation of Akt at Ser473 has been identified as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in a rapamycin-insensitive complex with rictor and Sin1 (5,6). Akt promotes cell survival by inhibiting apoptosis through phosphorylation and inactivation of several targets, including Bad (7), forkhead transcription factors (8), c-Raf (9), and caspase-9. PTEN phosphatase is a major negative regulator of the PI3 kinase/Akt signaling pathway (10). LY294002 is a specific PI3 kinase inhibitor (11). Another essential Akt function is the regulation of glycogen synthesis through phosphorylation and inactivation of GSK-3α and β (12,13). Akt may also play a role in insulin stimulation of glucose transport (12). In addition to its role in survival and glycogen synthesis, Akt is involved in cell cycle regulation by preventing GSK-3β-mediated phosphorylation and degradation of cyclin D1 (14) and by negatively regulating the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p27 Kip1 (15) and p21 Waf1/Cip1 (16). Akt also plays a critical role in cell growth by directly phosphorylating mTOR in a rapamycin-sensitive complex containing raptor (17). More importantly, Akt phosphorylates and inactivates tuberin (TSC2), an inhibitor of mTOR within the mTOR-raptor complex (18,19).
Background: DARPP-32 (dopamine and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein, relative molecular mass 32,000) is a cytosolic protein highly enriched in medium-sized spiny neurons of the neostriatum (1). It is a bifunctional signaling molecule that controls serine/threonine kinase and serine/threonine phosphatase activity (2). Dopamine stimulates phosphorylation of DARPP-32 through D1 receptors and activation of PKA. PKA phosphorylation of DARPP-32 at Thr34 converts it into an inhibitor of protein phosphatase 1 (1). DARPP-32 is converted into an inhibitor of PKA when phosphorylated at Thr75 by cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5) (2). Mice containing a targeted deletion of the DARPP-32 gene exhibit an altered biochemical, electrophysiological, and behavioral phenotype (3).