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: 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).
Background: The cell division cycle demands accuracy to avoid the accumulation of genetic damage. This process is controlled by molecular circuits called "checkpoints" that are common to all eukaryotic cells (1). Checkpoints monitor DNA integrity and cell growth prior to replication and division at the G1/S and G2/M transitions, respectively. The cdc2-cyclin B kinase is pivotal in regulating the G2/M transition (2,3). Cdc2 is phosphorylated at Thr14 and Tyr15 during G2-phase by the kinases Wee1 and Myt1, rendering it inactive. The tumor suppressor protein retinoblastoma (Rb) controls progression through the late G1 restriction point (R) and is a major regulator of the G1/S transition (4). During early and mid G1-phase, Rb binds to and represses the transcription factor E2F (5). The phosphorylation of Rb late in G1-phase by CDKs induces Rb to dissociate from E2F, permitting the transcription of S-phase-promoting genes. In vitro, Rb can be phosphorylated at multiple sites by cdc2, cdk2, and cdk4/6 (6-8). DNA damage triggers both the G2/M and the G1/S checkpoints. DNA damage activates the DNA-PK/ATM/ATR kinases, which phosphorylate Chk at Ser345 (9), Chk2 at Thr68 (10) and p53 (11). The Chk kinases inactivate cdc25 via phosphorylation at Ser216, blocking the activation of cdc2.
Background: The Set1 histone methyltransferase protein was first identified in yeast as part of the Set1/COMPASS histone methyltransferase complex, which methylates histone H3 on lysine 4 and functions as a transcriptional co-activator (1). While yeast contain only one known Set1 protein, mammals contain six Set1-related proteins: SET1A, SET1B, MLL1, MLL2, MLL3 and MLL4, all of which methylate histone H3 on lysine 4 (2,3). These Set1-related proteins are each found in distinct protein complexes, all of which share the common core structural subunits WDR5, RBBP5 and ASH2L (2-6). WDR82 is a core subunit specific to SET1A and SET1B complexes, while Menin is a core subunit specific to the MLL complexes (4,5,7).Like yeast Set1, all six Set1-related mammalian proteins methylate histone H3 on lysine 4 (2-6). SET1A, SET1B, MLL1 and MLL2 mediate di- and tri-methylation of histone H3 Lys4 at gene promoters to facilitate transcription activation. MLL3 and MLL4 function primarily to mono-methylate histone H3 Lys4 at gene enhancers. MLL1 and MLL2 function as master regulators of both embryogenesis and hematopoiesis, and are required for proper expression of Hox genes (8-10). MLL1 is a large approximately 4000 amino acid protein that is cleaved by the Taspase 1 threonine endopeptidase to form N-terminal (MLL1-N) and C-terminal MLL1 (MLL1-C) fragments, both of which are subunits of the functional MLL1/COMPASS complex (11,12). MLL1 translocations are found in a large number of hematological malignancies, suggesting that Set1 histone methyltransferase complexes play a critical role in leukemogenesis (6). Like MLL1, MLL2 is also a large, approximately 2700 amino acid protein that is cleaved by the Taspase 1 threonine endopeptidase to form N-terminal (MLL2-N) and C-terminal (MLL2-C) fragments, both of which are subunits of the functional MLL2/COMPASS complex. MLL2 has also been implicated as a modulator of hematological malignancies (13). MLL3 and MLL4 proteins are not cleaved by Taspase 1.
Background: Insulin and IGF-1 act on two closely related tyrosine kinase receptors to initiate a cascade of signaling events. These signaling events activate a variety of biological molecules, including kinases and transcription factors, which regulate cell growth, survival and metabolism.Type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) is a transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinase that is widely expressed in many cell lines and cell types within fetal and postnatal tissues (1-3). Three tyrosine residues within the kinase domain (Tyr1131, Tyr1135, and Tyr1136) are the earliest major autophosphorylation sites (4). Phosphorylation of these three tyrosine residues is necessary for kinase activation (5,6). Insulin receptors (IRs) share significant structural and functional similarity with IGF-I receptors, including the presence of an equivalent tyrosine cluster (Tyr1146/1150/1151) within the kinase domain activation loop. Tyrosine autophosphorylation of IRs is one of the earliest cellular responses to insulin stimulation (7). Autophosphorylation begins with phosphorylation at Tyr1146 and either Tyr1150 or Tyr1151, while full kinase activation requires triple tyrosine phosphorylation (8).Akt, also referred to as PKB or Rac, plays a critical role in controlling survival and apoptosis (9-11). This protein kinase is activated by insulin and various growth and survival factors to function in a wortmannin-sensitive pathway involving PI3 kinase (10,11). Akt is activated by phospholipid binding and activation loop phosphorylation at Thr308 by PDK1 (12) 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 (13,14).Tuberin is a product of the TSC2 tumor suppressor gene and an important regulator of cell proliferation and tumor development (15). Tuberin is phosphorylated on Ser939 and Thr1462 in response to PI3K activation and the human TSC complex is a direct biochemical target of the PI3K/Akt pathway (16). This result complements Drosophila genetics studies suggesting the possible involvement of the tuberin-hamartin complex in the PI3K/Akt mediated insulin pathway (17-19).The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR, FRAP, RAFT) is a Ser/Thr protein kinase (20-22) that functions as an ATP and amino acid sensor to balance nutrient availability and cell growth (23,24). When sufficient nutrients are available, mTOR responds to a phosphatidic acid-mediated signal to transmit a positive signal to p70 S6 kinase and participate in the inactivation of the eIF4E inhibitor, 4E-BP1 (25). These events result in the translation of specific mRNA subpopulations. mTOR is phosphorylated at Ser2448 via the PI3 kinase/Akt signaling pathway and autophosphorylated at Ser2481 (26,27).The Forkhead family of transcription factors is involved in tumorigenesis of rhabdomyosarcoma and acute leukemias (28-30). Within the family, three members (FoxO1, FoxO4, and FoxO3a) have sequence similarity to the nematode orthologue DAF-16, which mediates signaling via a pathway involving IGFR1, PI3K, and Akt (31-33). Active forkhead members act as tumor suppressors by promoting cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Increased proliferation results when forkhead transcription factors are inactivated through phosphorylation by Akt at Thr24, Ser256, and Ser319, which results in nuclear export and inhibition of transcription factor activity (34).Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) was initially identified as an enzyme that regulates glycogen synthesis in response to insulin (35). 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 (36,37).
Background: The 14-3-3 family of proteins plays a key regulatory role in signal transduction, checkpoint control, apoptotic and nutrient-sensing pathways (1,2). 14-3-3 proteins are highly conserved and ubiquitously expressed. There are at least seven isoforms, β, γ, ε, σ, ζ, τ, and η that have been identified in mammals. The initially described α and δ isoforms are confirmed to be phosphorylated forms of β and ζ, respectively (3). Through their amino-terminal α helical region, 14-3-3 proteins form homo- or heterodimers that interact with a wide variety of proteins: transcription factors, metabolic enzymes, cytoskeletal proteins, kinases, phosphatases, and other signaling molecules (3,4). The interaction of 14-3-3 proteins with their targets is primarily through a phospho-Ser/Thr motif. However, binding to divergent phospho-Ser/Thr motifs, as well as phosphorylation independent interactions has been observed (4). 14-3-3 binding masks specific sequences of the target protein, and therefore, modulates target protein localization, phosphorylation state, stability, and molecular interactions (1-4). 14-3-3 proteins may also induce target protein conformational changes that modify target protein function (4,5). Distinct temporal and spatial expression patterns of 14-3-3 isoforms have been observed in development and in acute response to extracellular signals and drugs, suggesting that 14-3-3 isoforms may perform different functions despite their sequence similarities (4). Several studies suggest that 14-3-3 isoforms are differentially regulated in cancer and neurological syndromes (2,3).
Background: Acetylation of the histone tail causes chromatin to adopt an "open" conformation, allowing increased accessibility of transcription factors to DNA. The identification of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and their large multiprotein complexes has yielded important insights into how these enzymes regulate transcription (1,2). HAT complexes interact with sequence-specific activator proteins to target specific genes. In addition to histones, HATs can acetylate nonhistone proteins, suggesting multiple roles for these enzymes (3). In contrast, histone deacetylation promotes a "closed" chromatin conformation and typically leads to repression of gene activity (4). Mammalian histone deacetylases can be divided into three classes on the basis of their similarity to various yeast deacetylases (5). Class I proteins (HDACs 1, 2, 3, and 8) are related to the yeast Rpd3-like proteins, those in class II (HDACs 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10) are related to yeast Hda1-like proteins, and class III proteins are related to the yeast protein Sir2. Inhibitors of HDAC activity are now being explored as potential therapeutic cancer agents (6,7).