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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 Nov;14(11):7265-75.

Activation of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (cdk4) by mouse MO15-associated kinase.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105.


The assembly of functional holoenzymes composed of regulatory D-type cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases (cdks) is rate limiting for progression through the G1 phase of the mammalian somatic cell cycle. Complexes between D-type cyclins and their major catalytic subunit, cdk4, are catalytically inactive until cyclin-bound cdk4 undergoes phosphorylation on a single threonyl residue (Thr-172). This step is catalyzed by a cdk-activating kinase (CAK) functionally analogous to the enzyme which phosphorylates cdc2 and cdk2 at Thr-161/160. Here, we demonstrate that the catalytic subunit of mouse cdc2/cdk2 CAK (a 39-kDa protein designated p39MO15) can assemble with a regulatory protein present in either insect or mammalian cells to generate a CAK activity capable of phosphorylating and enzymatically activating both cdk2 and cdk4 in complexes with their respective cyclin partners. A newly identified 37-kDa cyclin-like protein (cyclin H [R. P. Fisher and D. O. Morgan, Cell 78:713-724, 1994]) can assemble with p39MO15 to activate both cyclin A-cdk2 and cyclin D-cdk4 in vitro, implying that CAK is structurally reminiscent of cyclin-cdk complexes themselves. Antisera produced to the p39MO15 subunit can completely deplete mammalian cell lysates of CAK activity for both cyclin A-cdk2 and cyclin D-cdk4, with recovery of activity in the resulting immune complexes. By using an immune complex CAK assay, CAK activity for cyclin A-cdk2 and cyclin D-cdk4 was detected both in quiescent cells and invariantly throughout the cell cycle. Therefore, although it is essential for the enzymatic activation of cyclin-cdk complexes, CAK appears to be neither rate limiting for the emergence of cells from quiescence nor subject to upstream regulatory control by stimulatory mitogens.

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