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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jul 20;276(29):27256-65. Epub 2001 May 22.

Docking sites on substrate proteins direct extracellular signal-regulated kinase to phosphorylate specific residues.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases such as extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) are important signaling proteins that phosphorylate (S/T)P sites in many different protein substrates. ERK binding to substrate proteins is mediated by docking sites including the FXFP motif and the D-domain. We characterized the sequence of amino acids that can constitute the FXFP motif using peptide and protein substrates. Substitutions of the phenylalanines at positions 1 and 3 had significant effects, indicating that these phenylalanines provide substantial binding affinity, whereas substitutions of the residues at positions 2 and 4 had less effect. The FXFP and D-domain docking sites were analyzed in a variety of positions and arrangements in the proteins ELK-1 and KSR-1. Our results indicate that the FXFP and D-domain docking sites form a flexible, modular system that has two functions. First, the affinity of a substrate for ERK can be regulated by the number, type, position, and arrangement of docking sites. Second, in substrates with multiple potential phosphorylation sites, docking sites can direct phosphorylation of specific (S/T)P residues. In particular, the FQFP motif of ELK-1 is necessary and sufficient to direct phosphorylation of serine 383, whereas the D-domain directs phosphorylation of other (S/T)P sites in ELK-1.

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