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: 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: Transcription factors of the nuclear factor κB (NF-κB)/Rel family play a pivotal role in inflammatory and immune responses (1,2). There are five family members in mammals: RelA, c-Rel, RelB, NF-κB1 (p105/p50), and NF-κB2 (p100/p52). Both p105 and p100 are proteolytically processed by the proteasome to produce p50 and p52, respectively. Rel proteins bind p50 and p52 to form dimeric complexes that bind DNA and regulate transcription. In unstimulated cells, NF-κB is sequestered in the cytoplasm by IκB inhibitory proteins (3-5). NF-κB-activating agents can induce the phosphorylation of IκB proteins, targeting them for rapid degradation through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway and releasing NF-κB to enter the nucleus where it regulates gene expression (6-8). NIK and IKKα (IKK1) regulate the phosphorylation and processing of NF-κB2 (p100) to produce p52, which translocates to the nucleus (9-11).
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: 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: 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: 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).