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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 28;279(22):23073-81. Epub 2004 Mar 19.

ERK7 expression and kinase activity is regulated by the ubiquitin-proteosome pathway.

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Ben May Institute for Cancer Research, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60615, USA.


ERK7 is a unique member of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) subfamily of MAP kinases. Although ERK7 shares a TEY motif in the activation loop of the kinase, it displays constitutive activation, nuclear localization, and growth inhibitory properties that are regulated by its C-terminal domain. Because ERK7 is expressed at low levels compared with ERK2 and its activity is dependent upon its expression level, we investigated the mechanism by which ERK7 expression is regulated. We now show that ERK7 expression is regulated by ubiquitination and rapid proteosomal turnover. Furthermore, both the kinase domain and the C-terminal tail are independently degraded at a rate comparable with that of the intact protein. Analysis of a series of chimeras between ERK2 and ERK7 reveal that the N-terminal 20 amino acids of the kinase domain are a primary determinant of ERK7 degradation. Fusion of the N-terminal 20 amino acids is both necessary and sufficient to cause proteolytic degradation of both ERK2 and green fluorescent protein. Finally, ERK7 is stabilized by an N-terminal mutant of Cullin-1 suggesting that ERK7 is ubiquitinated by the Skip1-Cullin-F box complex. These results indicate that ERK7 is a highly regulated enzyme whose cellular expression and kinase activation level is tightly controlled by the ubiquitin-proteosome pathway.

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