The p53 tumour suppressor protein plays a key role in the integration of stress signals. Multi-site phosphorylation of p53 may play an integral part in the transmission of these signals and is catalysed by many different protein kinases including an unidentified p53-N-terminus-targeted protein kinase (p53NK) which phosphorylates a group of sites at the N-terminus of the protein. In this paper, we present evidence that the delta and epsilon isoforms of casein kinase 1 (CK1delta and CK1epsilon) show identical features to p53NK and can phosphorylate p53 both in vitro and in vivo. Recombinant, purified glutathione S-transferase (GST)-CK1delta and GST-CK1epsilon fusion proteins each phosphorylate p53 in vitro at serines 4, 6 and 9, the sites recognised by p53NK. Furthermore, p53NK (i) co-purifies with CK1delta/epsilon, (ii) shares identical kinetic properties to CK1delta/epsilon, and (iii) is inhibited by a CK1delta/epsilon-specific inhibitor (IC261). In addition, CK1delta is also present in purified preparations of p53NK as judged by immunoanalysis using a CK1delta-specific monoclonal antibody. Treatment of murine SV3T3 cells with IC261 specifically blocked phosphorylation in vivo of the CK1delta/epsilon phosphorylation sites in p53, indicating that p53 interacts physiologically with CK1delta and/or CK1epsilon. Similarly, over-expression of a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-CK1delta fusion protein led to hyper-phosphorylation of p53 at its N-terminus. Treatment of MethAp53ts cells with the topoisomerase-directed drugs etoposide or camptothecin led to increases in both CK1delta-mRNA and -protein levels in a manner dependent on the integrity of p53. These data suggest that p53 is phosphorylated by CK1delta and CK1epsilon and additionally that there may be a regulatory feedback loop involving p53 and CK1delta.
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