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: Autophagy is a catabolic process for the autophagosomic-lysosomal degradation of bulk cytoplasmic contents (1,2). Autophagy is generally activated by conditions of nutrient deprivation, but it has also been associated with a number of physiological processes, including development, differentiation, neurodegenerative diseases, infection, and cancer (3).Atg8 is a ubiquitin-like protein that is critical for autophagosome formation. Atg8 is synthesized as a precursor protein that is processed by the cysteine protease Atg4, followed by lipidation with phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) in a ubiqutin-like conjugation pathway involving Atg7 and Atg3 (4). This processing of Atg8, which is described as a conversion from type-I to type-II forms, is frequently described as a marker for autophagy. The type-II form of Atg8 is incorporated into maturing autophagosomes and leads to the recruitment of additional autophagy components, including cargo receptors like SQSTM1/p62. While yeast has a single Atg8 gene, many eukaryotes have at least six orthologs, including three microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (MAP1LC3/LC3) family members (LC3A, LC3B, and LC3C) and three GABAA receptor associated protein (GABARAP) family members (GABARAP, GABARAPL1/GEC1, and GABARAPL2/GATE-16). While highly conserved, these various family members can have important differences in their post-translational processing, expression profile, and protein interactions including distinct cargo receptor. This complexity within the Atg8 family is critical for selective mechanisms of autophagy that have been reported (5, 6).
Background: Amyloid β (Aβ) precursor protein (APP) is a 100-140 kDa transmembrane glycoprotein that exists as several isoforms (1). The amino acid sequence of APP contains an amyloid domain, which can be processed and released by two-step proteolytic cleavage (1). The extracellular deposition and accumulation of the released Aβ fragments form the main components of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease (1). Several fragments corresponding to progressive APP processing at alternative cleavage sites have been identified (2). These include Aβ (1-37), Aβ (1-39), Aβ (1-40), and Aβ (1-42) (2). These fragments can also be N-terminally modified to generate pyroglutamate-3 Aβ (pE3-peptide) (3). Fragment-specific and pan-Aβ antibodies are used to detect and examine relative levels of individual Aβ fragments.