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EMBO J. 2000 Mar 15;19(6):1301-11.

Molecular determinants that mediate selective activation of p38 MAP kinase isoforms.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) group is represented by four isoforms in mammals (p38alpha, p38beta2, p38gamma and p38delta). These p38 MAPK isoforms appear to mediate distinct functions in vivo due, in part, to differences in substrate phosphorylation by individual p38 MAPKs and also to selective activation by MAPK kinases (MAPKKs). Here we report the identification of two factors that contribute to the specificity of p38 MAPK activation. One mechanism of specificity is the selective formation of functional complexes between MAPKK and different p38 MAPKs. The formation of these complexes requires the presence of a MAPK docking site in the N-terminus of the MAPKK. The second mechanism that confers signaling specificity is the selective recognition of the activation loop (T-loop) of p38 MAPK isoforms. Together, these processes provide a mechanism that enables the selective activation of p38 MAPK in response to activated MAPKK.

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