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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2010 Mar;67(6):875-90. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0215-z. Epub 2009 Dec 12.

The alpha-kinase family: an exceptional branch on the protein kinase tree.

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Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.


The alpha-kinase family represents a class of atypical protein kinases that display little sequence similarity to conventional protein kinases. Early studies on myosin heavy chain kinases in Dictyostelium discoideum revealed their unusual propensity to phosphorylate serine and threonine residues in the context of an alpha-helix. Although recent studies show that some members of this family can also phosphorylate residues in non-helical regions, the name alpha-kinase has remained. During evolution, the alpha-kinase domains combined with many different functional subdomains such as von Willebrand factor-like motifs (vWKa) and even cation channels (TRPM6 and TRPM7). As a result, these kinases are implicated in a large variety of cellular processes such as protein translation, Mg(2+) homeostasis, intracellular transport, cell migration, adhesion, and proliferation. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on different members of this kinase family and discuss the potential use of alpha-kinases as drug targets in diseases such as cancer.

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