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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 5;279(10):8837-47. Epub 2003 Dec 17.

Extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 are serum-stimulated "Bim(EL) kinases" that bind to the BH3-only protein Bim(EL) causing its phosphorylation and turnover.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Signalling, Signalling Programme, The Babraham Institute, Cambridge CB2 4AT, United Kingdom.


Bim, a "BH3-only" protein, is expressed de novo following withdrawal of serum survival factors and promotes cell death. We have shown previously that activation of the ERK1/2 pathway promotes phosphorylation of Bim(EL), targeting it for degradation via the proteasome. However, the nature of the kinase responsible for Bim(EL) phosphorylation remained unclear. We now show that Bim(EL) is phosphorylated on at least three sites in response to activation of the ERK1/2 pathway. By using the peptidylprolyl isomerase, Pin1, as a probe for proline-directed phosphorylation, we show that ERK1/2-dependent phosphorylation of Bim(EL) occurs at (S/T)P motifs. ERK1/2 phosphorylates Bim(EL), but not Bim(S) or Bim(L), in vitro, and mutation of Ser(65) to alanine blocks the phosphorylation of Bim(EL) by ERK1/2 in vitro and in vivo and prevents the degradation of the protein following activation of the ERK1/2 pathway. We also find that ERK1/2, but not JNK, can physically associate with GST-Bim(EL), but not GST-Bim(L) or GST-Bim(S), in vitro. ERK1/2 also binds to full-length Bim(EL) in vivo, and we have localized a potential ERK1/2 "docking domain" lying within a 27-amino acid stretch of the Bim(EL) protein. Our findings provide new insights into the post-translational regulation of Bim(EL) and the role of the ERK1/2 pathway in cell survival signaling.

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