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Cell Signal. 2010 Aug;22(8):1185-92. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2010.03.002. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

Mitogen-activated protein kinase p38 and MK2, MK3 and MK5: ménage à trois or ménage à quatre?

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  • 1University of Tromsø, Faculty of Health Sciences, Institute of Medical Biology, N-9037 Tromsø, Norway.


The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathways play pivotal roles in cellular processes such as proliferation, apoptosis, gene regulation, differentiation, and cell motility. The typical mammalian MAPK pathways ERK1/2, JNK, p38(MAPK), and ERK5 operate through a concatenation of three successive phosphorylation events mediated by a MAPK kinase kinase, a MAPK kinase, and a MAPK. MAPKs phosphorylate substrates with distinct functions, including other protein kinases referred to as MAPK-activated protein kinases. One family of related MAPK-activated protein kinases includes MK2, MK3, and MK5. While it is generally accepted that MK2 and MK3 are bona fide substrates for p38(MAPK), the genuineness of MK5 as a p38(MAPK) substrate is disputed. This review summarizes the findings pro and contra an authentic p38(MAPK)-MK5 relationship, discusses possible explanations for these discrepancies, and proposes experiments that may help to unequivocally clarify whether MK5 is indeed a substrate for p38(MAPK).

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