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Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 19;9(1):19409. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-55998-8.

An ultrasensitive fiveplex activity assay for cellular kinases.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 22908, USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 22908, USA.
Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 22908, USA.


Protein kinases are enzymes whose abundance, protein-protein interactions, and posttranslational modifications together determine net signaling activity in cells. Large-scale data on cellular kinase activity are limited, because existing assays are cumbersome, poorly sensitive, low throughput, and restricted to measuring one kinase at a time. Here, we surmount the conventional hurdles of activity measurement with a multiplexing approach that leverages the selectivity of individual kinase-substrate pairs. We demonstrate proof of concept by designing an assay that jointly measures activity of five pleiotropic signaling kinases: Akt, IκB kinase (IKK), c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-extracellular regulated kinase kinase (MEK), and MAPK-activated protein kinase-2 (MK2). The assay operates in a 96-well format and specifically measures endogenous kinase activation with coefficients of variation less than 20%. Multiplex tracking of kinase-substrate pairs reduces input requirements by 25-fold, with ~75 µg of cellular extract sufficient for fiveplex activity profiling. We applied the assay to monitor kinase signaling during coxsackievirus B3 infection of two different host-cell types and identified multiple differences in pathway dynamics and coordination that warrant future study. Because the Akt-IKK-JNK-MEK-MK2 pathways regulate many important cellular functions, the fiveplex assay should find applications in inflammation, environmental-stress, and cancer research.

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