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Mammalian mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase (MEKK) can function in a yeast mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway downstream of protein kinase C.

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  • Research Article
  • Biology


Mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades are conserved in fungal, plant, and metazoan species. We expressed murine MAP kinase kinase kinase (MEKK) in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to determine whether this kinase functions as a general or specific activator of genetically and physiologically distinct MAP-kinase-dependent signaling pathways and to investigate how MEKK is regulated. Expression of MEKK failed to correct the mating deficiency of a ste11 delta mutant that lacks an MEKK homolog required for mating. MEKK expression also failed to induce expression of a reporter gene controlled by the HOG1 gene product (Hog1p), a yeast MAP kinase homolog involved in response to osmotic stress. Expression of MEKK did correct the cell lysis defect of a bck1 delta mutant that lacks an MEKK homolog required for cell-wall assembly. MEKK required the downstream MAP kinase homolog in the BCK1-dependent pathway, demonstrating that it functionally replaces the BCK1 gene product (Bck1p) rather than bypassing the pathway. MEKK therefore selectively activates one of three distinct MAP-kinase-dependent pathways. Possible explanations for this selectivity are discussed. Expression of the MEKK catalytic domain, but not the full-length molecule, corrected the cell-lysis defect of a pkc1 delta mutant that lacks a protein kinase C homolog that functions upstream of Bck1p. MEKK therefore functions downstream of the PKC1 gene product (Pkc1p). The N-terminal noncatalytic domain of MEKK, which contains several consensus protein kinase C phosphorylation sites, may, therefore, function as a negative regulatory domain. Protein kinase C phosphorylation may provide one mechanism for activating MEKK.

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