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Biochemistry. 2012 Mar 20;51(11):2232-45. doi: 10.1021/bi201788e. Epub 2012 Mar 6.

Calcium/calmodulin stimulates the autophosphorylation of elongation factor 2 kinase on Thr-348 and Ser-500 to regulate its activity and calcium dependence.

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Graduate Program in Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712, United States.


Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF-2K) is an atypical protein kinase regulated by Ca(2+) and calmodulin (CaM). Its only known substrate is eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF-2), whose phosphorylation by eEF-2K impedes global protein synthesis. To date, the mechanism of eEF-2K autophosphorylation has not been fully elucidated. To investigate the mechanism of autophosphorylation, human eEF-2K was coexpressed with λ-phosphatase and purified from bacteria in a three-step protocol using a CaM affinity column. Purified eEF-2K was induced to autophosphorylate by incubation with Ca(2+)/CaM in the presence of MgATP. Analyzing tryptic or chymotryptic peptides by mass spectrometry monitored the autophosphorylation over 0-180 min. The following five major autophosphorylation sites were identified: Thr-348, Thr-353, Ser-445, Ser-474, and Ser-500. In the presence of Ca(2+)/CaM, robust phosphorylation of Thr-348 occurs within seconds of addition of MgATP. Mutagenesis studies suggest that phosphorylation of Thr-348 is required for substrate (eEF-2 or a peptide substrate) phosphorylation, but not self-phosphorylation. Phosphorylation of Ser-500 lags behind the phosphorylation of Thr-348 and is associated with the Ca(2+)-independent activity of eEF-2K. Mutation of Ser-500 to Asp, but not Ala, renders eEF-2K Ca(2+)-independent. Surprisingly, this Ca(2+)-independent activity requires the presence of CaM.

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