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Cell Signal. 2008 May;20(5):836-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2007.12.014. Epub 2007 Dec 27.

DUSP6/MKP-3 inactivates ERK1/2 but fails to bind and inactivate ERK5.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, CB22 3AT, UK.


Extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and -2 (ERK1/2) are activated by dual threonine and tyrosine phosphorylation of a TEY motif. The highly related kinase ERK5 is also activated by phosphorylation at a TEY motif. Inactivation of ERK1/2 is achieved by distinct members of the dual-specificity protein phosphatase (DUSP) family, which are responsible for the specific, regulated de-phosphorylation of the TEY motif. These include both nuclear (DUSP5) and cytoplasmic (DUSP6) enzymes. DUSP6, a candidate tumour suppressor gene, is thought to be highly specific for inactivation of ERK1/2 but several reports have suggested that it may also inactivate ERK5. Here we have compared the ability of DUSP6 to regulate the ERK1/2 and ERK5 protein kinases. We find that DUSP6 binds to ERK1/2 in both yeast and human cells but fails to bind to ERK5. Recombinant ERK2 can induce catalytic activation of DUSP6 whereas ERK5 cannot. Ectopic expression of DUSP6 can de-phosphorylate a co-expressed ERK2 construct but does not de-phosphorylate ERK5. Finally, expression of DUSP6 blocks the MEK1-driven activation of GAL4-ELK1, an ERK1/2-regulated transcription factor, but fails to block the MEK5-driven activation of GAL4-MEF2D, an ERK5-regulated transcription factor. These results demonstrate that even upon over-expression DUSP6 fails to inactivate ERK5, confirming that it is indeed an ERK1/2-specific DUSP.

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