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Nat Cell Biol. 2004 Aug;6(8):770-6. Epub 2004 Jul 18.

MLK3 is required for mitogen activation of B-Raf, ERK and cell proliferation.

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The Molecular Cardiology Research Institute, Department of Medicine, Tufts-New England Medical Center and The Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, 750 Washington Street, Box 8486, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


The ERK group of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) is essential for cell proliferation stimulated by mitogens, oncogenic ras and raf (ref. 1). All MAPKs are activated by MAP3K/MEK/MAPK core pathways and the Raf proto-oncoproteins, especially B-Raf, are ERK-specific MAP3Ks (refs 1-3). Mixed lineage kinase-3 (MLK3) is a MAP3K that was thought to be a cytokine-activated, and comparatively selective, regulator of the JNK group of MAPKs (refs 1, 4-6). Here we report that silencing of mlk3 by RNAi suppressed mitogen and cytokine activation not only of JNK but of ERK and p38 as well. Silencing mlk3 also blocked mitogen-stimulated phosphorylation of B-Raf at Thr 598 and Ser 601, a step required for B-Raf activation. Furthermore, silencing mlk3 prevented serum-stimulated cell proliferation and the proliferation of tumour cells bearing either oncogenic Ki-Ras or loss-of-function neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1) or NF2 mutations. The proliferation of tumour cells containing activating B-raf or raf-1 mutations was unaffected by silencing mlk3. Our results define an unexpected role for MLK3 in mitogen regulation of B-Raf, ERK and cell proliferation.

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