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J Biol Chem. 2000 May 12;275(19):14231-41.

Cdc42-induced activation of the mixed-lineage kinase SPRK in vivo. Requirement of the Cdc42/Rac interactive binding motif and changes in phosphorylation.

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Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


Src homology 3 domain (SH3)-containing proline-rich protein kinase (SPRK)/mixed-lineage kinase (MLK)-3 is a serine/threonine kinase that upon overexpression in mammalian cells activates the c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase pathway. The mechanisms by which SPRK activity is regulated are not well understood. The small Rho family GTPases, Rac and Cdc42, have been shown to bind and modulate the activities of signaling proteins, including SPRK, which contain Cdc42/Rac interactive binding motifs. Coexpression of SPRK and activated Cdc42 increases SPRKs activity. SPRKs Cdc42/Rac interactive binding-like motif contains six of the eight consensus residues. Using a site-directed mutagenesis approach, we show that SPRK contains a functional Cdc42/Rac interactive binding motif that is required for SPRKs association with and activation by Cdc42. However, experiments using a SPRK variant that lacks the COOH-terminal zipper region/basic stretch suggest that this region may also contribute to Cdc42 binding. Unlike the PAK family of protein kinases, we find that the activation of SPRK by Cdc42 cannot be recapitulated in an in vitro system using purified, recombinant proteins. Comparative phosphopeptide mapping demonstrates that coexpression of activated Cdc42 with SPRK alters the in vivo serine/threonine phosphorylation pattern of SPRK suggesting that the mechanism by which Cdc42 increases SPRKs catalytic activity involves a change in the in vivo phosphorylation of SPRK. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first demonstrated example of a Cdc42-mediated change in the in vivo phosphorylation of a protein kinase. These studies suggest an additional component or cellular environment is required for SPRK activation by Cdc42.

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