Activated JNK phosphorylates the c-terminal domain of MLK2 that is required for MLK2-induced apoptosis.

Trescowthick Research Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, Melbourne 8006, Victoria, Australia.
MAP kinase signaling pathways are important mediators of cellular responses to a wide variety of stimuli. Signals pass along these pathways via kinase cascades in which three protein kinases are sequentially phosphorylated and activated, initiating a range of cellular programs including cellular proliferation, immune and inflammatory responses, and apoptosis. One such cascade involves the mixed lineage kinase, MLK2, signaling through MAP kinase kinase 4 and/or MAP kinase kinase 7 to the SAPK/JNK, resulting in phosphorylation of transcription factors including the oncogene, c-jun. Recently we showed that MLK2 causes apoptosis in cultured neuronal cells and that this effect is dependent on activation of the JNK pathway (Liu, Y. F., Dorow, D. S., and Marshall, J. (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 19035-19040). Furthermore, dominant-negative MLK2 blocked apoptosis induced by polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin protein, the product of the mutant Huntington's disease gene. Here we show that as well as activating the stress-signaling pathway, MLK2 is a target for phosphorylation by activated JNK. Phosphopeptide mapping of MLK2 proteins revealed that activated JNK2 phosphorylates multiple sites mainly within the noncatalytic C-terminal region of MLK2 including the C-terminal 100 amino acid peptide. In addition, MLK2 is phosphorylated in vivo within several of the same C-terminal peptides phosphorylated by JNK2 in vitro, and this phosphorylation is increased by cotransfection of JNK2 and treatment with the JNK activator, anisomycin. Cotransfection of dominant-negative JNK kinase inhibits phosphorylation of kinase-negative MLK2 by anisomycin-activated JNK. Furthermore, we show that the N-terminal region of MLK2 is sufficient to activate JNK but that removal of the C-terminal domain abrogates the apoptotic response. Taken together, these data indicate that the apoptotic activity of MLK2 is dependent on the C-terminal domain that is the main target for MLK2 phosphorylation by activated JNK.
Mesh Terms:
Animals, Apoptosis, COS Cells, Huntington Disease, MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases, MAP Kinase Signaling System, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases, Phosphorylation, Signal Transduction
J. Biol. Chem. Apr. 06, 2001; 276(14);10801-10 [PUBMED:11278395]
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