A novel protein kinase related to the C. elegans serine/threonine kinase UNC-51 was cloned from mouse. The UNC-51-Like Kinase (ULK)1 is encoded by a cDNA of 1051 amino acids with calculated MW of 113 kDa. Comparison of the ULK1 and UNC-51 shows the highest conservation in the amino-terminal kinase domain, which is followed by a proline/serine-rich (PS) domain and a conserved carboxyl-terminal (C) domain. ULK1 mRNA is expressed in various tissues, and is mapped to mouse chromosome 5F and rat chromosome 12q16.3, by fluorescent in situ hybridization. HA-tagged ULK1 is expressed as a protein of approximately 150 kDa in COS7 cells and is auto-phosphorylated in vitro in its PS domain. We propose that ULK1, UNC-51 and a yeast protein kinase Apg1p comprise a novel subfamily of protein kinase, which is structurally conserved among eukaryotes.
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