JNK Signaling: Regulation and Functions Based on Complex Protein-Protein Partnerships
The c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), as members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family, mediate eukaryotic cell responses to a wide range of abiotic and biotic stress insults. JNKs also regulate important physiological processes, including neuronal functions, immunological actions, and embryonic development, via their impact on gene expression, cytoskeletal protein dynamics, and cell death/survival pathways. Although the JNK pathway has been under study for >20 years, its complexity is still perplexing, with multiple protein partners of JNKs underlying the diversity of actions. Here we review the current knowledge of JNK structure and isoforms as well as the partnerships of JNKs with a range of intracellular proteins. Many of these proteins are direct substrates of the JNKs. We analyzed almost 100 of these target proteins in detail within a framework of their classification based on their regulation by JNKs. Examples of these JNK substrates include a diverse assortment of nuclear transcription factors (Jun, ATF2, Myc, Elk1), cytoplasmic proteins involved in cytoskeleton regulation (DCX, Tau, WDR62) or vesicular transport (JIP1, JIP3), cell membrane receptors (BMPR2), and mitochondrial proteins (Mcl1, Bim). In addition, because upstream signaling components impact JNK activity, we critically assessed the involvement of signaling scaffolds and the roles of feedback mechanisms in the JNK pathway. Despite a clarification of many regulatory events in JNK-dependent signaling during the past decade, many other structural and mechanistic insights are just beginning to be revealed. These advances open new opportunities to understand the role of JNK signaling in diverse physiological and pathophysiological states.
Systematic analysis of somatic mutations driving cancer: uncovering functional protein regions in disease development
BACKGROUND:Recent advances in sequencing technologies enable the large-scale identification of genes that are affected by various genetic alterations in cancer. However, understanding tumor development requires insights into how these changes cause altered protein function and impaired network regulation in general and/or in specific cancer types. RESULTS:In this work we present a novel method called iSiMPRe that identifies regions that are significantly enriched in somatic mutations and short in-frame insertions or deletions (indels). Applying this unbiased method to the complete human proteome, by using data enriched through various cancer genome projects, we identified around 500 protein regions which could be linked to one or more of 27 distinct cancer types. These regions covered the majority of known cancer genes, surprisingly even tumor suppressors. Additionally, iSiMPRe also identified novel genes and regions that have not yet been associated with cancer. CONCLUSIONS:While local somatic mutations correspond to only a subset of genetic variations that can lead to cancer, our systematic analyses revealed that they represent an accompanying feature of most cancer driver genes regardless of the primary mechanism by which they are perturbed during tumorigenesis. These results indicate that the accumulation of local somatic mutations can be used to pinpoint genes responsible for cancer formation and can also help to understand the effect of cancer mutations at the level of functional modules in a broad range of cancer driver genes. REVIEWERS:This article was reviewed by SÃ¡ndor Pongor, Michael Gromiha and ZoltÃ¡n GÃ¡spÃ¡ri.
Systematic discovery of linear binding motifs targeting an ancient protein interaction surface on MAP kinases
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) are broadly used regulators of cellular signaling. However, how these enzymes can be involved in such a broad spectrum of physiological functions is not understood. Systematic discovery of MAPK networks both experimentally and in silico has been hindered because MAPKs bind to other proteins with low affinity and mostly in less-characterized disordered regions. We used a structurally consistent model on kinase-docking motif interactions to facilitate the discovery of short functional sites in the structurally flexible and functionally under-explored part of the human proteome and applied experimental tools specifically tailored to detect low-affinity protein-protein interactions for their validation inÂ vitro and in cell-based assays. The combined computational and experimental approach enabled the identification of many novel MAPK-docking motifs that were elusive for other large-scale protein-protein interaction screens. The analysis produced an extensive list of independently evolved linear binding motifs from a functionally diverse set of proteins. These all target, with characteristic binding specificity, an ancient protein interaction surface on evolutionarily related but physiologically clearly distinct three MAPKs (JNK, ERK, and p38). This inventory of human protein kinase binding sites was compared with that of other organisms to examine how kinase-mediated partnerships evolved over time. The analysis suggests that most human MAPK-binding motifs are surprisingly new evolutionarily inventions and newly found links highlight (previously hidden) roles of MAPKs. We propose that short MAPK-binding stretches are created in disordered protein segments through a variety of ways and they represent a major resource for ancient signaling enzymes to acquire new regulatory roles.
Structural assembly of the signaling competent ERK2-RSK1 heterodimeric protein kinase complex
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) bind and activate their downstream kinase substrates, MAPK-activated protein kinases (MAPKAPKs). Notably, extracellular signal regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) phosphorylates ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (RSK1), which promotes cellular growth. Here, we determined the crystal structure of an RSK1 construct in complex with its activator kinase. The structure captures the kinase-kinase complex in a precatalytic state where the activation loop of the downstream kinase (RSK1) faces the enzyme's (ERK2) catalytic site. Molecular dynamics simulation was used to show how this heterodimer could shift into a signaling-competent state. This structural analysis combined with biochemical and cellular studies on MAPKâ†’MAPKAPK signaling showed that the interaction between the MAPK binding linear motif (residing in a disordered kinase domain extension) and the ERK2 "docking" groove plays the major role in making an encounter complex. This interaction holds kinase domains proximal as they "readjust," whereas generic kinase domain surface contacts bring them into a catalytically competent state.
Specificity of linear motifs that bind to a common mitogen-activated protein kinase docking groove
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have a docking groove that interacts with linear "docking" motifs in binding partners. To determine the structural basis of binding specificity between MAPKs and docking motifs, we quantitatively analyzed the ability of 15 docking motifs from diverse MAPK partners to bind to c-Jun amino-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1), p38Î±, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2). Classical docking motifs mediated highly specific binding only to JNK1, and only those motifs with a sequence pattern distinct from the classical MAPK binding docking motif consensus differentiated between the topographically similar docking grooves of ERK and p38Î±. Crystal structures of four complexes of MAPKs with docking peptides, representing JNK-specific, ERK-specific, or ERK- and p38-selective binding modes, revealed that the regions located between consensus positions in the docking motifs showed conformational diversity. Although the consensus positions in the docking motifs served as anchor points that bound to common MAPK surface features and mostly contributed to docking in a nondiscriminatory fashion, the conformation of the intervening region between the anchor points mostly determined specificity. We designed peptides with tailored MAPK binding profiles by rationally changing the length and amino acid composition of intervening regions located between anchor points. These results suggest a coherent structural model for MAPK docking specificity that reveals how short linear motifs binding to a common kinase docking groove can mediate diverse interaction patterns and contribute to correct MAPK partner selection in signaling networks.
Scaffolds: interaction platforms for cellular signalling circuits
Scaffold proteins influence cellular signalling by binding to multiple signalling enzymes, receptors or ion channels. Although normally devoid of catalytic activity, they have a big impact on controlling the flow of signalling information. By assembling signalling proteins into complexes, they play the part of signal processing hubs. As we learn more about the way signalling components are linked into natural signalling circuits, researchers are becoming interested in building non-natural signalling pathways to test our knowledge and/or to intentionally reprogram cellular behaviour. In this review, we discuss the role of scaffold proteins as efficient tools for assembling intracellular signalling complexes, both natural and artificial.