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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jul 13;276(28):26509-15. Epub 2001 May 14.

Hydrophobic as well as charged residues in both MEK1 and ERK2 are important for their proper docking.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390-9041, USA.


Docking between MEK1 and ERK2 is required for their stable interaction and efficient signal transmission. The MEK1 N terminus contains the ERK docking or D domain that consists of conserved hydrophobic and basic residues. We mutated the hydrophobic and basic residues individually and found that loss of either type reduced MEK1 phosphorylation of ERK2 in vitro and its ability to bind to ERK2 in vivo. Moreover, ERK2 was localized in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus when co-expressed with MEK1 that had mutations in either the hydrophobic or the basic residues. We then identified two conserved hydrophobic residues on ERK2 that play roles in docking with MEK1. Mutating these residues to alanine reduced the interaction of ERK2 with MEK1 in cells. These mutations also reduced the phosphorylation of MEK1 by ERK2 but had little effect on phosphorylation of MBP by ERK2. Finally, we generated docking site mutants in ERK2-MEK1 fusion proteins. Although the mutation of the MEK1 D domain significantly reduced ERK2-MEK1 activity, mutations of the putatively complementary acidic residues and hydrophobic residues on ERK2 did not change its activity. However, both types of mutations decreased the phosphorylation of Elk-1 caused by ERK2-MEK1 fusion proteins. These findings suggest complex interactions of MEK1 D domains with ERK2 that influence its activation and its effects on substrates.

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