Mutations that confer drug-resistance, oncogenicity and intrinsic activity on the ERK MAP kinases—current state of the art

Karina Smorodinsky-atias, Nadine Soudah, David Engelberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Unique characteristics distinguish extracellular signal-regulated kinases (Erks) from other eukaryotic protein kinases (ePKs). Unlike most ePKs, Erks do not autoactivate and they manifest no basal activity; they become catalysts only when dually phosphorylated on neighboring Thr and Tyr residues and they possess unique structural motifs. Erks function as the sole targets of the receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs)-Ras-Raf-MEK signaling cascade, which controls numerous physiological processes and is mutated in most cancers. Erks are therefore the executers of the pathway’s biology and pathology. As oncogenic mutations have not been identified in Erks themselves, combined with the tight regulation of their activity, Erks have been considered immune against mutations that would render them intrinsically active. Nevertheless, several such mutations have been generated on the basis of structure-function analysis, understanding of ePK evolution and, mostly, via genetic screens in lower eukaryotes. One of the mutations conferred oncogenic properties on Erk1. The number of interesting mutations in Erks has dramatically increased following the development of Erk-specific pharmacological inhibitors and identification of mutations that cause resistance to these compounds. Several mutations have been recently identified in cancer patients. Here we summarize the mutations identified in Erks so far, describe their properties and discuss their possible mechanism of action.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number129
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • CD domain
  • ERK1
  • ERK2
  • MAPK kinase
  • Rolled
  • SCH772984
  • Sevenmaker
  • VRT-11E


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