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J Biol Chem. 2004 Feb 6;279(6):4507-14. Epub 2003 Nov 3.

p42, a novel cyclin-dependent kinase-activating kinase in mammalian cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-activating kinase (CAK) phosphorylates a conserved threonine residue on CDKs and activates them. Two known classes of CAKs are represented by monomeric Cak1p in budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and by heterotrimeric CDK7-cyclin H-Mat1 in human and other metazoa. We report here the identification of p42, a novel CAK activity in human cells. p42 has sequence homology to both Cak1p and CDK7 groups of CAKs. p42 is essential for the phosphorylation of Thr-160 and activation of CDK2. A dominant-negative p42 mutant, T161A, and posttranscriptional gene silencing of p42 with RNA(i)-impaired Thr-160 phosphorylation and activity of CDK2. Purified p42 phosphorylated glutathione S-transferase-CDK2 at Thr-160 within the T-loop and activated its histone H1 kinase activity. Finally, p42 is indispensable for cell growth. Cells lacking p42 were incapable of growing and forming colonies whereas cells with a reduced level of p42 grew at significantly slower rates than control cells. Our findings suggest that p42 represents a novel CAK activity in mammalian cells.

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