ERK And P38 MAPK-Activated Protein Kinases: A Family Of Protein Kinases With Diverse Biological Functions
Conserved signaling pathways that activate the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are involved in relaying extracellular stimulations to intracellular responses. The MAPKs coordinately regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, motility, and survival, which are functions also known to be mediated by members of a growing family of MAPK-activated protein kinases (MKs; formerly known as MAPKAP kinases). The MKs are related serine/threonine kinases that respond to mitogenic and stress stimuli through proline-directed phosphorylation and activation of the kinase domain by extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 and p38 MAPKs. There are currently 11 vertebrate MKs in five subfamilies based on primary sequence homology: the ribosomal S6 kinases, the mitogen- and stress-activated kinases, the MAPK-interacting kinases, MAPK-activated protein kinases 2 and 3, and MK5. In the last 5 years, several MK substrates have been identified, which has helped tremendously to identify the biological role of the members of this family. Together with data from the study of MK-knockout mice, the identities of the MK substrates indicate that they play important roles in diverse biological processes, including mRNA translation, cell proliferation and survival, and the nuclear genomic response to mitogens and cellular stresses. In this article, we review the existing data on the MKs and discuss their physiological functions based on recent discoveries.