The protein kinase mammalian sterile 20-like kinase 1 (MST1) is a mammalian homologue of the Drosophila hippo and plays a critical role in regulation of programmed cell death. MST1 exerts pro-apoptotic function through cleavage, autophosphorylation-Thr(183) and subsequent translocation to the nucleus where it phosphorylates a number of molecules, including LATS1/2, FOXO, JNK, and histone H2B. Here, we show that the cleavage of MST1 is inhibited by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway. Akt interacts with MST1 and phosphorylates a highly conserved residue threonine 120 of MST1, which leads to inhibition of its kinase activity and nuclear translocation as well as the autophosphorylation of Thr(183). Phospho-MST1-Thr(120) failed to activate downstream targets FOXO3a and JNK. Further, inverse correlation between pMST1-Thr(120) and pMST1-Thr(183) was observed in human ovarian tumors. These findings indicate that the phosphorylation of MST1-Thr(120) by Akt could be a major mechanism of regulation of the Hippo/MST1 pathway by cell survival signaling.
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