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J Biochem. 2001 Dec;130(6):773-81.

Mixed lineage kinase LZK forms a functional signaling complex with JIP-1, a scaffold protein of the c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase pathway.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry and CREST (Core Research for Educational Science and Technology) Project, Japan Science and Technology Corporation, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Leucine zipper-bearing kinase (LZK) is a novel member of the mixed lineage kinase (MLK) protein family, the cDNA of which was first cloned from a human brain cDNA library [Sakuma, H., Ikeda, A., Oka, S., Kozutsumi, Y., Zanetta, J.-P., and Kawasaki, T. (1997) J. Biol. Chem. 272, 28622-28629]. Several MLK family proteins have been proposed to function as MAP kinase kinase kinases in the c-Jun NH(2) terminal kinase (JNK)/stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) pathway. In the present study, we demonstrated that, like other MLKs, LZK activated the JNK/SAPK pathway but not the ERK pathway. LZK directly phosphorylated and activated MKK7, one of the two MAPKKs in the JNK/SAPK pathway, to a comparable extent to a constitutive active form of MEKK1 (MEKK1DeltaN), suggesting a biological role of LZK as a MAPKKK in the JNK/SAPK pathway. Recent studies have revealed the essential roles of scaffold proteins in intracellular signaling pathways including MAP kinase pathways. JIP-1, one of the scaffold proteins, has been shown to be associated with MLKs, MKK7, and JNK [Whitmarsh, A.J., Cavanagh, J., Tournier, C., Yasuda, J., and Davis, R.J. (1998) Science 281, 1671-1674], suggesting the presence of a selective signaling pathway including LZK, MKK7, and JNK. Consistent with this hypothesis, we provided evidence that LZK is associated with the C-terminal region of JIP-1 through its kinase catalytic domain. In addition, LZK-induced JNK activation was markedly enhanced when LZK and JNK were co-expressed with JIP-1. These results constituted important clues for understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating the signaling specificities of various JNK activators under different cellular conditions.

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