Proapoptotic kinase MST2 coordinates signaling crosstalk between RASSF1A, Raf-1, and Akt.
Mammalian MST kinases function in stress-induced apoptosis to limit tumor progression. However, there is limited understanding about MST2 control by key regulators of cell division and survival. Raf-1 binds and inhibits MST2 kinase, whereas dissociation from Raf-1 and binding to tumor suppressor protein RASSF1A activates MST2. Akt phosphorylates MST2 in response to mitogens, oncogenic Ras, or depletion of tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10. We identified T117 and T384 as Akt phosphorylation sites in MST2. Mutation of these sites inhibited MST2 binding to Raf-1 kinase but enhanced binding to tumor suppressor RASSF1A, accentuating downstream c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling and promoting apoptosis. We determined that MST2 phosphorylation by Akt limits MST2 activity in two ways: first, by blocking its binding to RASSF1A and by promoting its association into the Raf-1 inhibitory complex, and second, by preventing homodimerization of MST2, which is needed for its activation. Dissociation of the Raf-1-MST2 complex promoted mitogenic signaling and coordinately licensed apoptotic risk. Using Ras effector domain mutants, we found that Akt is essential to prevent MST2 activation after mitogenic stimulation. Our findings elucidate how MST2 serves as a hub to integrate biological outputs of the Raf-1 and Akt pathways.