Maternal embryonic leucine zipper kinase (MELK) is a protein Ser/Thr kinase that has been implicated in stem cell renewal, cell cycle progression, and pre-mRNA splicing, but its substrates and regulation are not yet known. We show here that MELK has a rather broad substrate specificity and does not appear to require a specific sequence surrounding its (auto)phosphorylation sites. We have mapped no less than 16 autophosphorylation sites including serines, threonines, and a tyrosine residue and show that the phosphorylation of Thr167 and Ser171 is required for the activation of MELK. The expression of MELK activity also requires reducing agents such as dithiothreitol or reduced glutathione. Furthermore, we show that MELK is a Ca2+-binding protein and is inhibited by physiological Ca2+ concentrations. The smallest MELK fragment that was still catalytically active comprises the N-terminal catalytic domain and the flanking ubiquitin-associated domain. A C-terminal fragment of MELK functions as an autoinhibitory domain. Our data show that the activity of MELK is regulated in a complex manner and offer new perspectives for the further elucidation of its biological function.
"All the FOXM1 vectors (wild-type and mutants, S715A, S724A, double mutant S715/724A,S678A, T596A, TSAA,EE and the reporter 6x FoxM1) and PLK1 (wild-type and dominant negative) were kindly provided by Dr. Zheng Fu of the Virginia Commonwealth University. All MELK vectors were described previously . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a life-threatening brain tumor. Accumulating evidence suggests that eradication of glioma stem-like cells (GSCs) in GBM is essential to achieve cure. The transcription factor FOXM1 has recently gained attention as a master regulator of mitotic progression of cancer cells in various organs. Here, we demonstrate that FOXM1 forms a protein complex with the mitotic kinase MELK in GSCs, leading to phosphorylation and activation of FOXM1 in a MELK kinase-dependent manner. This MELK-dependent activation of FOXM1 results in a subsequent increase in mitotic regulatory genes in GSCs. MELK-driven FOXM1 activation is regulated by the binding and subsequent trans-phosphorylation of FOXM1 by another kinase PLK1. Using mouse neural progenitor cells (NPCs), we found that transgenic expression of FOXM1 enhances, while siRNA-mediated gene silencing diminishes neurosphere formation, suggesting that FOXM1 is required for NPC growth. During tumorigenesis, FOXM1 expression sequentially increases as cells progress from NPCs, to pretumorigenic progenitors and GSCs. The antibiotic Siomycin A disrupts MELK-mediated FOXM1 signaling with a greater sensitivity in GSC compared to neural stem cell. Treatment with the first-line chemotherapy agent for GBM, Temozolomide, paradoxically enriches for both FOXM1 (+) and MELK (+) cells in GBM cells, and addition of Siomycin A to Temozolomide treatment in mice harboring GSC-derived intracranial tumors enhances the effects of the latter. Collectively, our data indicate that FOXM1 signaling through its direct interaction with MELK regulates key mitotic genes in GSCs in a PLK1-dependent manner and thus, this protein complex is a potential therapeutic target for GBM. Stem Cells
"Indeed, MELK is intricately regulated: the C-terminal kinase-associated 1 domain can bind to its N-terminal kinase domain, and this interaction may affect both the kinase activity and the localization of the protein (Beullens et al. 2005; Chartrain et al. 2006). Removal of the C terminus enhances the kinase activity of MELK in vitro (Beullens et al. 2005). A similar auto-inhibitory mechanism was observed in the yeast PAR-1 homologs Kin1p and Kin2p (Elbert et al. 2005). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Asymmetric cell divisions produce daughter cells with distinct sizes and fates, a process important for generating cell diversity during development. Many C. elegans neuroblasts, including Q.p, divide to produce a larger neuron or neuronal precursor and a smaller cell that dies. These size and fate asymmetries require the gene pig-1, which encodes a protein orthologous to vertebrate MELK and belongs to the AMPK-related family of kinases. Members of this family can be phosphorylated and activated by the tumor suppressor kinase LKB1, a conserved polarity regulator of epithelial cells and neurons. In this study, we present evidence that the C. elegans orthologs of LKB1 (PAR-4) and its partners STRAD (STRD-1) and MO25 (MOP-25.2) regulate the asymmetry of the Q.p neuroblast division. We show that PAR-4 and STRD-1 act in the Q lineage and function genetically in the same pathway as PIG-1. A conserved threonine residue (T169) in the PIG-1 activation loop is essential for PIG-1 activity, consistent with the model that PAR-4 (or another PAR-4-regulated kinase) phosphorylates and activates PIG-1. We also demonstrate that PIG-1 localizes to centrosomes during cell divisions of the Q lineage, but this localization does not depend on T169 or PAR-4. We propose that a PAR-4-STRD-1 complex stimulates PIG-1 kinase activity to promote asymmetric neuroblast divisions and the generation of daughter cells with distinct fates. Changes in cell fate may underlie many of the abnormal behaviors exhibited by cells after loss of PAR-4 or LKB1.
"Saadat et al.  show that the Helicobacter pylori CagA is a natural and oncogenic variation of this bacteria , interacting with the PAR-1/MARK and destroying the tight cellular junctions. The expression of the gene CagA in epithelial cells resulted in the loss of cellular polarity, with appearance of aberrant forms and eliminating the cellular monolayer used in this study. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Structural homology modelling was done with the software AMPS, MODELLER, PROCHECK, WHATIF AND VERIFY-3D to generate a quality model of human MARK3. Macromolecular docking simulations seem to confirm recent data in the literature and in MARK3 there does not occur intramolecular interactions between the associated kinase domain KA1 and the catalytic domain. Using virtual screening, we were able to identify and suggest the principal residues of MARK3 which interact with the ligands in addition to those reported in the literature. The pharmacophoric model obtained from Discovery Studio coincides with those obtained by molecular interaction fields, indicating the principal ligand residues of the MARK3 KA1 domain. Using virtual screening with pharmacophoric constraints as well as molecular dynamics, the most stable compounds in the ligand site as well as their potential toxicities were used to select potential inhibitors for further in vitro and in vivo investigations of human MARK3 KA1 domain, which could eventually pass to the market to be used for the treatment of head and neck cancer.
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