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: AMPA- (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid), kainate-, and NMDA- (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors are the three main families of ionotropic glutamate-gated ion channels. AMPA receptors (AMPARs) are composed of four subunits (GluA1-4), which assemble as homo- or hetero-tetramers to mediate the majority of fast excitatory transmissions in the central nervous system. AMPARs are implicated in synapse formation, stabilization, and plasticity (1). In contrast to GluA2-containing AMPARs, AMPARs that lack GluA2 are permeable to calcium (2). Post-transcriptional modifications (alternative splicing, nuclear RNA editing) and post-translational modifications (glycosylation, phosphorylation) result in a very large number of permutations, fine-tuning the kinetic properties and surface expression of AMPARs representing key pathways to mediate synaptic plasticity (3). During development and mature states, some synapses exhibit “silent synapses” that lack functional AMPAR-mediated transmission. Synapses become “unsilenced” by post-translational modification of GluAs, particularly GluA1, which alters its kinetic properties and/or surface expression while other synaptic components, such as other glutamate receptors like NMDARs and postsynaptic scaffolding proteins like PSD95, remain unaltered. Conversely, reducing the AMPAR kinetic properties and surface expression can silence synapses. Key post-translational modifications implicated in regulating these processes include phosphorylation of GluA1 at Ser831 and Ser845 (4). Research studies have implicated activity-dependent changes in AMPARs in a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, and epilepsy (1).
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: Akt, also referred to as PKB or Rac, plays a critical role in controlling survival and apoptosis (1-3). This protein kinase is activated by insulin and various growth and survival factors to function in a wortmannin-sensitive pathway involving PI3 kinase (2,3). Akt is activated by phospholipid binding and activation loop phosphorylation at Thr308 by PDK1 (4) 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 (5,6). Akt promotes cell survival by inhibiting apoptosis through phosphorylation and inactivation of several targets, including Bad (7), forkhead transcription factors (8), c-Raf (9), and caspase-9. PTEN phosphatase is a major negative regulator of the PI3 kinase/Akt signaling pathway (10). LY294002 is a specific PI3 kinase inhibitor (11). Another essential Akt function is the regulation of glycogen synthesis through phosphorylation and inactivation of GSK-3α and β (12,13). Akt may also play a role in insulin stimulation of glucose transport (12). In addition to its role in survival and glycogen synthesis, Akt is involved in cell cycle regulation by preventing GSK-3β-mediated phosphorylation and degradation of cyclin D1 (14) and by negatively regulating the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors p27 Kip1 (15) and p21 Waf1/Cip1 (16). Akt also plays a critical role in cell growth by directly phosphorylating mTOR in a rapamycin-sensitive complex containing raptor (17). More importantly, Akt phosphorylates and inactivates tuberin (TSC2), an inhibitor of mTOR within the mTOR-raptor complex (18,19).
Background: Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) is a tyrosine kinase receptor for pleiotrophin (PTN), a growth factor involved in embryonic brain development (1-3). In ALK-expressing cells, PTN induces phosphorylation of both ALK and the downstream effectors IRS-1, Shc, PLCγ, and PI3 kinase (1). ALK was originally discovered as a nucleophosmin (NPM)-ALK fusion protein produced by a translocation (4). Investigators have found that the NPM-ALK fusion protein is a constitutively active, oncogenic tyrosine kinase associated with anaplastic lymphoma (4). Research literature suggests that activation of PLCγ by NPM-ALK may be a crucial step for its mitogenic activity and involved in the pathogenesis of anaplastic lymphomas (5).A distinct ALK oncogenic fusion protein involving ALK and echinoderm microtubule-associated protein like 4 (EML4) has been described in the research literature from a non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line, with corresponding fusion transcripts present in some cases of lung adenocarcinoma. The short, amino-terminal region of the microtubule-associated protein EML4 is fused to the kinase domain of ALK (6-8).
Background: The epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor is a transmembrane tyrosine kinase that belongs to the HER/ErbB protein family. Ligand binding results in receptor dimerization, autophosphorylation, activation of downstream signaling, internalization, and lysosomal degradation (1,2). Phosphorylation of EGF receptor (EGFR) at Tyr845 in the kinase domain is implicated in stabilizing the activation loop, maintaining the active state enzyme, and providing a binding surface for substrate proteins (3,4). c-Src is involved in phosphorylation of EGFR at Tyr845 (5). The SH2 domain of PLCγ binds at phospho-Tyr992, resulting in activation of PLCγ-mediated downstream signaling (6). Phosphorylation of EGFR at Tyr1045 creates a major docking site for the adaptor protein c-Cbl, leading to receptor ubiquitination and degradation following EGFR activation (7,8). The GRB2 adaptor protein binds activated EGFR at phospho-Tyr1068 (9). A pair of phosphorylated EGFR residues (Tyr1148 and Tyr1173) provide a docking site for the Shc scaffold protein, with both sites involved in MAP kinase signaling activation (2). Phosphorylation of EGFR at specific serine and threonine residues attenuates EGFR kinase activity. EGFR carboxy-terminal residues Ser1046 and Ser1047 are phosphorylated by CaM kinase II; mutation of either of these serines results in upregulated EGFR tyrosine autophosphorylation (10).
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).