The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases are activated in response to various extracellular signals in eukaryotic cells and play a critical role in the cellular responses to these signals. The four mammalian isoforms (p38α, p38β, p38γ, and p38δ) are coexpressed and coactivated in the same cells. The exact role of each p38 isoform has not been entirely identified, in part due to the inability to activate each member individually. This could be resolved by the use of intrinsically active mutants. Based on previous studies on yeast p38/Hog1 [Bell M, Capone R, Pashtan I, Levitzki A & Engelberg D (2001) J Biol Chem276, 25351-2538] and human p38α[Diskin R, Askari N, Capone R, Engelberg D & Livnah O (2004) J Biol Chem279, 47040-47049] we have generated intrinsically active p38β, p38γ and p38δ mutants. In addition, we have identified a new activating mutation site in p38α. Most of the activating mutations are located in the L16 loop, in which conformational changes were shown to induce activation. We show that these changes impose substantial autophosphorylation activity, providing a mechanistic explanation for the intrinsic activity of the mutants. The new active variants maintain specificity towards substrates and inhibitors similar to that of the parental wild-type proteins, and are phosphorylated by mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 6, their upstream activator. Thus, we have completed the development of a series of intrinsically active mutants of all p38 isoforms. These active variants could now become powerful tools for the elucidating the activation mechanism and specific biological roles of each p38 isoform.
- Active mutants
- Mitogen-activated protein kinase
- Signal transduction