Protein kinase B (PKB/Akt) is a regulator of cell survival and apoptosis. To become fully activated, PKB/Akt requires phosphorylation at two sites, threonine 308 and serine 473, in a phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase-dependent manner. The kinase responsible for phosphorylation of threonine 308 is the PI 3-kinase-dependent kinase-1 (PDK-1), whereas phosphorylation of serine 473 has been suggested to be regulated by PKB/Akt autophosphorylation in a PDK-1-dependent manner. However, the integrin-linked kinase (ILK) has also been shown to regulate phosphorylation of serine 473 in a PI 3-kinase-dependent manner. Whether ILK phosphorylates this site directly or functions as an adapter molecule has been debated. We now show by in-gel kinase assay and matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry that biochemically purified ILK can phosphorylate PKB/Akt directly. Co-immunoprecipitation analysis of cell extracts demonstrates that ILK can complex with PKB/Akt as well as PDK-1 and that ILK can disrupt PDK-1/PKB association. The amino acid residue serine 343 of ILK within the activation loop is required for kinase activity as well as for its interaction with PKB/Akt. Mutational analysis of ILK further shows a crucial role for arginine 211 of ILK within the phosphoinositide phospholipid binding domain in the regulation of PKB- serine 473 phosphorylation. A highly selective small molecule inhibitor of ILK activity also inhibits the ability of ILK to phosphorylate PKB/Akt in vitro and in intact cells. These data demonstrate that ILK is an important upstream kinase for the regulation of PKB/Akt.
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