Pim-1 is an oncogenic serine/threonine kinase implicated in cytokine-induced signal transduction and in development of lymphoid malignancies. However, its precise function as well as physiological substrates have remained unknown. In this study we demonstrate that Pim-1 can physically interact with the NFATc1 transcription factor and phosphorylate it in vitro on several serine residues. In contrast to previously recognized NFATc kinases, wild-type Pim-1 enhances NFATc-dependent transactivation and IL-2 production in Jurkat T cells, while kinase-deficient Pim-1 mutants inhibit them in a dominant negative fashion. Our results reveal a novel, phosphorylation-dependent regulatory mechanism targeting NFATc1 through which Pim-1 acts as a downstream effector of Ras to facilitate IL-2-dependent proliferation and/or survival of lymphoid cells.
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