Mammalian mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades control various cellular events, ranging from cell growth to apoptosis, in response to external stimuli. A conserved docking site, termed DVD, is found in the mammalian MAP kinase kinases (MAPKKs) belonging to the three major subfamilies, namely MEK1, MKK4/7, and MKK3/6. The DVD sites bind to their specific upstream MAP kinase kinase kinases (MAPKKKs), including MTK1 (MEKK4), ASK1, TAK1, TAO2, MEKK1, and Raf-1. DVD site is a stretch of about 20 amino acids immediately on the C-terminal side of the MAPKK catalytic domain. Mutations in the DVD site strongly inhibited MAPKKs from binding to, and being activated by, their specific MAPKKKs, both in vitro and in vivo. DVD site mutants could not be activated by various external stimuli in vivo. Synthetic DVD oligopeptides inhibited specific MAPKK activation, both in vitro and in vivo, demonstrating the critical importance of the DVD docking in MAPK signaling.
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