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 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: CREB is a bZIP transcription factor that activates target genes through cAMP response elements. CREB is able to mediate signals from numerous physiological stimuli, resulting in regulation of a broad array of cellular responses. While CREB is expressed in numerous tissues, it plays a large regulatory role in the nervous system. CREB is believed to play a key role in promoting neuronal survival, precursor proliferation, neurite outgrowth, and neuronal differentiation in certain neuronal populations (1-3). Additionally, CREB signaling is involved in learning and memory in several organisms (4-6). CREB is able to selectively activate numerous downstream genes through interactions with different dimerization partners. CREB is activated by phosphorylation at Ser133 by various signaling pathways including Erk, Ca2+, and stress signaling. Some of the kinases involved in phosphorylating CREB at Ser133 are p90RSK, MSK, CaMKIV, and MAPKAPK-2 (7-9).
Background: TBK1 (TANK-binding kinase 1)/NAK (NF-κB activating kinase) is an IκB kinase (IKK)-activating kinase and can activate IKK through direct phosphorylation (1). TBK1 was identified through association with the TRAF binding protein, TANK, and found to function upstream of NIK and IKK in the activation of NF-κB (2). TBK1 induces IκB degradation and NF-κB activity through IKKβ. TBK1 may mediate IKK and NF-κB activation in response to growth factors that stimulate PKCε activity (1). TBK1 plays a pivotal role in the activation of IRF3 in the innate immune response (3).