We describe the isolation, cloning, and characterization of human Nek8, a new mammalian NIMA-related kinase, and its candidate substrate Bicd2. Nek8 was isolated as a beta-casein kinase activity in rabbit lung and has an N-terminal catalytic domain homologous to the Nek family of protein kinases. Nek8 also contains a central domain with homology to RCC1, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for the GTPase Ran, and a C-terminal coiled-coil domain. Like Nek2, Nek8 prefers beta-casein over other exogenous substrates, has shared biochemical requirements for kinase activity, and is capable of autophosphorylation and oligomerization. Nek8 activity is not cell cycle regulated, but like Nek3, levels are consistently higher in G(0)-arrested cells. During the purification of Nek8 a second protein co-chromatographed with Nek8 activity. This protein, Bicd2, is a human homolog of the Drosophila protein Bicaudal D, a coiled-coil protein. Bicd2 is phosphorylated by Nek8 in vitro, and the endogenous proteins associate in vivo. Bicd2 localizes to cytoskeletal structures, and its subcellular localization is dependent on microtubule morphology. Treatment of cells with nocodazole leads to dramatic reorganization of Bicd2, and correlates with Nek8 phosphorylation. This may be indicative of a role for Nek8 and Bicd2 associated with cell cycle independent microtubule dynamics.
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