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Curr Biol. 1999 Jul 29-Aug 12;9(15):810-20.

Ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (RSK1) activation requires signals dependent on and independent of the MAP kinase ERK.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



The rsk1 gene encodes the 90 kDa ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (RSK1) protein, which contains two kinase domains. RSK1, which is involved in regulating cell survival and proliferation, lies at the end of the signaling cascade mediated by the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) subfamily of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. ERK activation and subsequent phosphorylation of the RSK1 carboxy-terminal catalytic loop stimulates phosphotransferase activity in the RSK1 amino-terminal kinase domain. When activated, RSK1 phosphorylates both nuclear and cytoplasmic substrates through this amino-terminal catalytic domain. It is thought that stimulation of the ERK/MAP kinase pathway is sufficient for RSK1 activation, but how ERK phosphorylation activates the RSK1 amino-terminal kinase domain is not known.


The individual isolated RSK1 kinase domains were found to be under regulatory control. In vitro kinase assays established that ERK phosphorylates RSK1 within the carboxy-terminal kinase domain, and the phosphoinositide-dependent kinase 1 (PDK1) phosphorylates RSK1 within the amino-terminal kinase domain. In transiently transfected HEK 293E cells, PDK1 alone stimulated phosphotransferase activity of an isolated RSK1 amino-terminal kinase domain. Nevertheless, activation of full-length RSK1 in the absence of serum required activation by both PDK1 and ERK.


RSK1 is phosphorylated by PDK1 in the amino-terminal kinase-activation loop, and by ERK in the carboxy-terminal kinase-activation loop. Activation of phosphotransferase activity of full-length RSK1 in vivo requires both PDK1 and ERK. RSK1 activation is therefore regulated by both the mitogen-stimulated ERK/MAP kinase pathway and a PDK1-dependent pathway.

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