A Raf-induced allosteric transition of KSR stimulates phosphorylation of MEK.

Section of Structural Biology, Institute of Cancer Research, Chester Beatty Laboratories, 237 Fulham Road, London SW3 6JB, UK.
Nature (Impact Factor: 42.35). 03/2011; 472(7343):366-9. DOI: 10.1038/nature09860
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In metazoans, the Ras-Raf-MEK (mitogen-activated protein-kinase kinase)-ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) signalling pathway relays extracellular stimuli to elicit changes in cellular function and gene expression. Aberrant activation of this pathway through oncogenic mutations is responsible for a large proportion of human cancer. Kinase suppressor of Ras (KSR) functions as an essential scaffolding protein to coordinate the assembly of Raf-MEK-ERK complexes. Here we integrate structural and biochemical studies to understand how KSR promotes stimulatory Raf phosphorylation of MEK (refs 6, 7). We show, from the crystal structure of the kinase domain of human KSR2 (KSR2(KD)) in complex with rabbit MEK1, that interactions between KSR2(KD) and MEK1 are mediated by their respective activation segments and C-lobe αG helices. Analogous to BRAF (refs 8, 9), KSR2 self-associates through a side-to-side interface involving Arg 718, a residue identified in a genetic screen as a suppressor of Ras signalling. ATP is bound to the KSR2(KD) catalytic site, and we demonstrate KSR2 kinase activity towards MEK1 by in vitro assays and chemical genetics. In the KSR2(KD)-MEK1 complex, the activation segments of both kinases are mutually constrained, and KSR2 adopts an inactive conformation. BRAF allosterically stimulates the kinase activity of KSR2, which is dependent on formation of a side-to-side KSR2-BRAF heterodimer. Furthermore, KSR2-BRAF heterodimerization results in an increase of BRAF-induced MEK phosphorylation via the KSR2-mediated relay of a signal from BRAF to release the activation segment of MEK for phosphorylation. We propose that KSR interacts with a regulatory Raf molecule in cis to induce a conformational switch of MEK, facilitating MEK's phosphorylation by a separate catalytic Raf molecule in trans.

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