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EMBO J. 1999 Apr 15;18(8):2119-26.

A casein kinase I motif present in the cytoplasmic domain of members of the tumour necrosis factor ligand family is implicated in 'reverse signalling'.

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  • 1Departments of Pathology, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


We have identified a putative signalling feature of the cytoplasmic domains of the tumour necrosis factor (TNF) family members based on available amino acid sequence data. A casein kinase I (CKI) consensus sequence is conserved in the cytoplasmic domain of six of 15 members of the type II integral membrane TNF ligand family. We examined the phosphorylation state of transmembrane tumour necrosis factor-alpha (mTNF) with [32P]orthophosphate labelling and in vitro kinase assays, in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW264.7 cells. A dimeric form of the type I soluble TNF receptor (sTNFR) was found to dephosphorylate mTNF. This effect could be prevented by treatment with phosphatase inhibitors. Recombinant CKI was able to phosphorylate mTNF that had been dephosphorylated by sTNFR ligation in vivo, and this was less effective if phosphatase inhibitors had been used to prevent mTNF dephosphorylation. A mutated form of mTNF, lacking the CKI recognition site, cannot be phosphorylated by the enzyme. Binding of sTNFR to mTNF induced an increase in intracellular calcium levels in RAW264.7 cells, implying the presence of an associated signalling pathway. We predict that this CKI motif is phosphorylated in other TNF ligand members, and that it represents a new insight into the mechanism of 'reverse signalling' in this cytokine family.

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