The human family of MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) signal-integrating kinases (Mnks) comprises four related proteins derived from two genes by alternative splicing. The MNK1 gene gives rise to two proteins, Mnk1a and Mnk1b, which possess distinct C-termini and properties. Despite lacking the C-terminal MAPK-binding site, Mnk1b shows higher basal activity than Mnk1a. In contrast, the activity of Mnk1a is tightly regulated by signalling through ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) and p38 MAPK. We show that the short C-terminus of Mnk1b confers on it a 'default' behaviour of substantial, but unregulated, activity. In contrast, the longer C-terminus of Mnk1a represses the basal activity and T (activation)-loop phosphorylation of this isoenzyme while allowing both properties to be stimulated by upstream MAPK signalling. Two features of the C-terminus of Mnk1a appear to account for this behaviour: the known MAPK-binding site and a region (predicted to be α-helical) which occludes access to the catalytic domain and the T-loop. The activation of Mnk1a results in a marked conformational change leading to a more 'open' structure. We also identified a conserved phenylalanine residue in an Mnk-specific insert as playing a key role in governing the ease with which Mnk1a can be phosphorylated. These studies help to identify the features that give rise to the diverse properties of human Mnk isoforms.
- Eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E)
- Extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK)
- Mitogen-activated protein kinase signal-integrating kinase (Mnk)
- p38 mitogen-activatedprotein kinase (p38 MAPK), protein kinase
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology