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J Biol Chem. 1994 Mar 4;269(9):6603-7.

Identification of substrate specificity determinants for the cell cycle-regulated NIMA protein kinase.

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Department of Pharmacology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


NIMA is a cell cycle-regulated protein kinase required for the G2/M transition in the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans. Previous biochemical characterization of the recombinant enzyme indicated that NIMA is a protein serine/threonine specific kinase with beta-casein being the best substrate from the many proteins and peptides tested (Lu, K.P., Osmani, S.A., and Means, A.R. (1993) J. Biol. Chem. 268, 8769-8776). However, substrate specificity or physiologically relevant substrates for NIMA remained unknown. In search for a peptide substrate for this enzyme, we screened an assembled library of synthetic peptides that each contained a phosphorylation site for a known protein kinase and found an excellent peptide substrate for NIMA, phospholemman 42-72 (PLM(42-72)). NIMA kinase phosphorylated PLM(42-72) uniquely and stoichiometrically on Ser63 with a Vmax of 1.4 mumol/min/mg and apparent Km of 20.0 microM. These kinetic constants were about 10-fold higher and 3-fold lower than those for beta-casein, respectively. A detailed analysis of substrate specificity determinants using synthetic peptide analogs of PLM(42-72) indicated that Phe-Arg-Xaa-Ser/Thr represents the optimal primary sequence for NIMA kinase phosphorylation. Replacement of the Arg at P-2 with Ala resulted in a 6-fold increase in Km and 2-fold decrease in Vmax, while substitution of the Phe at P-3 with Ala abolished NIMA phosphorylation. These results reveal the unique nature of substrate recognition by the NIMA kinase and should prove valuable in the search for biologically relevant NIMA substrates.

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