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Protein Sci. 1998 Nov;7(11):2249-55.

A single amino acid substitution makes ERK2 susceptible to pyridinyl imidazole inhibitors of p38 MAP kinase.

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  • 1Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4242, USA.


Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases are serine/threonine kinases that mediate intracellular signal transduction pathways. Pyridinyl imidazole compounds block pro-inflammatory cytokine production and are specific p38 kinase inhibitors. ERK2 is related to p38 in sequence and structure, but is not inhibited by pyridinyl imidazole inhibitors. Crystal structures of two pyridinyl imidazoles complexed with p38 revealed these compounds bind in the ATP site. Mutagenesis data suggested a single residue difference at threonine 106 between p38 and other MAP kinases is sufficient to confer selectivity of pyridinyl imidazoles. We have changed the equivalent residue in human ERK2, Q105, into threonine and alanine, and substituted four additional ATP binding site residues. The single residue change Q105A in ERK2 enhances the binding of SB202190 at least 25,000-fold compared to wild-type ERK2. We report enzymatic analyses of wild-type ERK2 and the mutant proteins, and the crystal structure of a pyridinyl imidazole, SB203580, bound to an ERK2 pentamutant, I103L, Q105T, D106H, E109G. T110A. These ATP binding site substitutions induce low nanomolar sensitivity to pyridinyl imidazoles. Furthermore, we identified 5-iodotubercidin as a potent ERK2 inhibitor, which may help reveal the role of ERK2 in cell proliferation.

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