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FASEB J. 1995 Oct;9(13):1255-66.

How do protein kinases discriminate between serine/threonine and tyrosine? Structural insights from the insulin receptor protein-tyrosine kinase.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


The eukaryotic protein kinases that directly phosphorylate proteins are divided into two major classes: those that phosphorylate tyrosine and those that phosphorylate serine and threonine. Until recently, the similarities between these two classes of enzymes, which now total more than 400, were based primarily on sequence alignments. A recent report of the structure of the kinase domain (IRK) of the insulin receptor protein-tyrosine kinase now allows the features of these two families to be compared at the structural level. We review here this first tyrosine-specific protein kinase structure, and compare and contrast it to the structure of the serine/threonine-specific cAMP-dependent protein kinase. Although the general fold of the polypeptide backbone is conserved as predicted, unique features at the IRK active site provide a basis for understanding the differences in specificity for the phosphate acceptor amino acid. The structure of this inactive, dephosphorylated protein-tyrosine kinase also defines for the first time how activation might be achieved.

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