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Mol Cell Biol. 1992 Mar;12(3):915-27.

Nuclear localization and regulation of erk- and rsk-encoded protein kinases.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


We demonstrate that members of the erk-encoded family of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases (pp44/42mapk/erk) and members of the rsk-encoded protein kinases (RSKs or pp90rsk) are present in the cytoplasm and nucleus of HeLa cells. Addition of growth factors to serum-deprived cells results in increased tyrosine and threonine phosphorylation and in the activation of cytosolic and nuclear MAP kinases. Activated MAP kinases then phosphorylate (serine/threonine) and activate RSKs. Concurrently, a fraction of the activated MAP kinases and RSKs enter the nucleus. In addition, a distinct growth-regulated RSK-kinase activity (an enzyme[s] that phosphorylates recombinant RSK in vitro and that may be another member of the erk-encoded family of MAP kinases) was found associated with a postnuclear membrane fraction. Regulation of nuclear MAP kinase and RSK activities by growth factors and phorbol ester is coordinate with immediate-early gene expression. Indeed, in vitro, MAP kinase and/or RSK phosphorylates histone H3 and the recombinant c-Fos and c-Jun polypeptides, transcription factors phosphorylated in a variety of cells in response to growth stimuli. These in vitro studies raise the possibility that the MAP kinase/RSK signal transduction pathway represents a protein-Tyr/Ser/Thr phosphorylation cascade with the spatial distribution and temporal regulation that can account for the rapid transmission of growth-regulating information from the membrane, through the cytoplasm, and to the nucleus.

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