Background: Eukaryotic cell cycle progression is dependent, in part, on the tightly regulated activity of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs). Cyclin D/CDK4/6 activity occurs in mid-late G1 phase, upstream of CDK2/cyclin E activity. Both of these activities are required for hyperphosphorylation of the retinoblastoma gene product (pRb). pRb phosphorylation allows the release of S phase-promoting transcription factors and is indicative of the cell's commitment to proliferate. This point in the cell cycle is known as the restriction point. Cyclin protein levels oscillate throughout the cell cycle, and their availability is a means of controlling CDK activity and cell proliferation. Cyclin D is degraded through the ubiquitin proteasome pathway in the absence of mitogenic signaling. Ubiquitination of cyclin D1 is enhanced by phosphorylation at Thr286 by glycogen synthase kinase 3b (GSK-3b) (1). p27/Kip1, p57 Kip2 and p21 Waf1/Cip1 are members of the Cip/Kip family of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. They form heterotrimeric complexes with cyclins and CDKs, inhibiting kinase activity and blocking progression through G1/S phase (2). However, p21 may enhance assembly and activity of cyclin D/CDK4/6 complexes (3). Levels of p21 and p27 protein are controlled through ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation (4). Levels of p27 are upregulated in quiescent cells and in cells treated with negative cell cycle regulators. p27 nuclear localization is controlled by Akt-dependent phosphorylation at Thr157 (5). The inhibitors of CDK4 (INK4) family include p15 INK4B, p16 INK4A, p18 INK4C, and p19 INK4D. All INK4 proteins selectively inhibit CDK4/6 activity, either in a binary complex, or in a ternary complex including cyclin D, resulting in inhibition of cell division (6,7).
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: Cdc25 is a protein phosphatase responsible for dephosphorylating and activating cdc2, a crucial step in regulating the entry of all eukaryotic cells into mitosis (1). cdc25C is constitutively phosphorylated at Ser216 throughout interphase by c-TAK1, while phosphorylation at this site is DNA damage-dependent at the G2/M checkpoint (2). When phosphorylated at Ser216, cdc25C binds to members of the 14-3-3 family of proteins, sequestering cdc25C in the cytoplasm and thereby preventing premature mitosis (3). The checkpoint kinases Chk1 and Chk2 phosphorylate cdc25C at Ser216 in response to DNA damage (4,5).
Background: c-Kit is a member of the subfamily of receptor tyrosine kinases that includes PDGF, CSF-1, and FLT3/flk-2 receptors (1,2). It plays a critical role in activation and growth in a number of cell types including hematopoietic stem cells, mast cells, melanocytes, and germ cells (3). Upon binding with its stem cell factor (SCF) ligand, c-Kit undergoes dimerization/oligomerization and autophosphorylation. Activation of c-Kit results in the recruitment and tyrosine phosphorylation of downstream SH2-containing signaling components including PLCγ, the p85 subunit of PI3 kinase, SHP2, and CrkL (4). Molecular lesions that impair the kinase activity of c-Kit are associated with a variety of developmental disorders (5), and mutations that constitutively activate c-Kit can lead to pathogenesis of mastocytosis and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (6). Tyr719 is located in the kinase insert region of the catalytic domain. c-Kit phosphorylated at Tyr719 binds to the p85 subunit of PI3 kinase in vitro and in vivo (7).
Background: Aurora kinases belong to a highly conserved family of mitotic serine/threonine kinases with three members identified among mammals: Aurora A, B, and C (1,2). Studies on the temporal expression pattern and subcellular localization of Aurora kinases in mitotic cells suggest an association with mitotic structure. Aurora kinase functional influences span from G2 phase to cytokinesis and may be involved in key cell cycle events such as centrosome duplication, chromosome bi-orientation and segregation, cleavage furrow positioning, and ingression (3). Aurora A is detected at the centrosomes, along mitotic spindle microtubules, and in the cytoplasm of mitotically proliferating cells. Aurora A protein levels are low during G1 and S phases and peak during the G2/M phase of the cell cycle. Phosphorylation of Aurora A at Thr288 in its catalytic domain increases kinase activity. Aurora A is involved in centrosome separation, maturation, and spindle assembly and stability. Expression of Aurora B protein also peaks during the G2/M phase of the cell cycle; Aurora B kinase activity peaks at the transition from metaphase to the end of mitosis. Aurora B associates with chromosomes during prophase prior to relocalizing to the spindle at anaphase. Aurora B regulates chromosome segregation through the control of microtubule-kinetochore attachment and cytokinesis. Expression of both Aurora A and Aurora B during the G2/M phase transition is tightly coordinated with histone H3 phosphorylation (4,5); research investigators have observed overexpression of these kinases in a variety of human cancers (2,4). Aurora C localizes to the centrosome from anaphase to cytokinesis and both mRNA and protein levels peak during G2/M phase. Although typical Aurora C expression is limited to the testis, research studies report overexpression of Aurora C is detected in various cancer cell lines (6).
Background: Chk1 kinase acts downstream of ATM/ATR kinase and plays an important role in DNA damage checkpoint control, embryonic development, and tumor suppression (1). Activation of Chk1 involves phosphorylation at Ser317 and Ser345 by ATM/ATR, followed by autophosphorylation of Ser296. Activation occurs in response to blocked DNA replication and certain forms of genotoxic stress (2). While phosphorylation at Ser345 serves to localize Chk1 to the nucleus following checkpoint activation (3), phosphorylation at Ser317 along with site-specific phosphorylation of PTEN allows for re-entry into the cell cycle following stalled DNA replication (4). Chk1 exerts its checkpoint mechanism on the cell cycle, in part, by regulating the cdc25 family of phosphatases. Chk1 phosphorylation of cdc25A targets it for proteolysis and inhibits its activity through 14-3-3 binding (5). Activated Chk1 can inactivate cdc25C via phosphorylation at Ser216, blocking the activation of cdc2 and transition into mitosis (6). Centrosomal Chk1 has been shown to phosphorylate cdc25B and inhibit its activation of CDK1-cyclin B1, thereby abrogating mitotic spindle formation and chromatin condensation (7). Furthermore, Chk1 plays a role in spindle checkpoint function through regulation of aurora B and BubR1 (8). Research studies have implicated Chk1 as a drug target for cancer therapy as its inhibition leads to cell death in many cancer cell lines (9).
Background: The inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family consists of an evolutionarily conserved group of apoptosis inhibitors containing a conserved 70 amino acid BIR (baculovirus inhibitor repeat) domain (1,2). Human members of this family include c-IAP1, c-IAP2, XIAP, survivin, livin, and NAIP. Overexpression of IAP family members, particularly survivin and livin, in cancer cell lines and primary tumors suggests an important role for these proteins in cancer progression (3-5). In general, the IAP proteins function through direct interactions to inhibit the activity of several caspases, including caspase-3, caspase-7, and caspase-9 (5,6). In addition, binding of IAP family members to the mitochondrial protein Smac blocks their interaction with caspase-9, thereby allowing the processing and activation of the caspase (2).
Background: The retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein Rb regulates cell proliferation by controlling progression through the restriction point within the G1-phase of the cell cycle (1). Rb has three functionally distinct binding domains and interacts with critical regulatory proteins including the E2F family of transcription factors, c-Abl tyrosine kinase, and proteins with a conserved LXCXE motif (2-4). Cell cycle-dependent phosphorylation by a CDK inhibits Rb target binding and allows cell cycle progression (5). Rb inactivation and subsequent cell cycle progression likely requires an initial phosphorylation by cyclin D-CDK4/6 followed by cyclin E-CDK2 phosphorylation (6). Specificity of different CDK/cyclin complexes has been observed in vitro (6-8) and cyclin D1 is required for Ser780 phosphorylation in vivo (9).
Background: YAP and TAZ (WWTR1) are transcriptional co-activators that play a central role in the Hippo Signaling pathway that regulates cell, tissue and organ growth. Under growth conditions, YAP and TAZ are translocated to the nucleus, where they interact with DNA-binding transcription factors (e.g., Transcriptional Enhanced Activation Domain [TEAD] proteins) to regulate the expression of genes that control fundamental aspects of cell function, such as proliferation and cell survival (1). A number of genes have been experimentally confirmed as targets of transcriptional regulation by YAP and TAZ. These include the extracellular matrix proteins CTGF, CYR61, and integrin β2 (2-4), the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) survivin (5), the mechano-sensitive nuclear envelope protein Lamin B2 (6), and the oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinase Axl (7).