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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Phosphorylation independent activation of human cyclin-dependent kinase 2 by cyclin A in vitro.

p33cdk2 is a serine-threonine protein kinase that associates with cyclins A, D, and E and has been implicated in the control of the G1/S transition in mammalian cells. Recent evidence indicates that cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (Cdk2), like its homolog Cdc2, requires cyclin binding and phosphorylation (of threonine-160) for activation in vivo. However, the extent to which mechanistic details of the activation process are conserved between Cdc2 and Cdk2 is unknown. We have developed bacterial expression and purification systems for Cdk2 and cyclin A that allow mechanistic studies of the activation process to be performed in the absence of cell extracts. Recombinant Cdk2 is essentially inactive as a histone H1 kinase (< 4 x 10(-5) pmol phosphate transferred.min-1 x microgram-1 Cdk2). However, in the presence of equimolar cyclin A, the specific activity is approximately 16 pmol.mon-1 x microgram-1, 4 x 10(5)-fold higher than Cdk2 alone. Mutation of T160 in Cdk2 to either alanine or glutamic acid had little impact on the specific activity of the Cdk2/cyclin A complex: the activity of Cdk2T160E was indistinguishable from Cdk2, whereas that of Cdk2T160A was reduced by five-fold. To determine if the Cdk2/cyclin A complex could be activated further by phosphorylation of T160, complexes were treated with Cdc2 activating kinase (CAK), purified approximately 12,000-fold from Xenopus eggs. This treatment resulted in an 80-fold increase in specific activity. This specific activity is comparable with that of the Cdc2/cyclin B complex after complete activation by CAK (approximately 1600 pmol.mon-1 x microgram-1). Neither Cdk2T160A/cyclin A nor Cdk2T160E/cyclin A complexes were activated further by treatment with CAK. In striking contrast with cyclin A, cyclin B did not directly activate Cdk2. However, both Cdk2/cyclin A and Cdk2/cyclin B complexes display similar activity after activation by CAK. For the Cdk2/cyclin A complex, both cyclin binding and phosphorylation contribute significantly to activation, although the energetic contribution of cyclin A binding is greater than that of T160 phosphorylation by approximately 5 kcal/ mol. The potential significance of direct activation of Cdk2 by cyclins with respect to regulation of cell cycle progression is discussed.[1]


  1. Phosphorylation independent activation of human cyclin-dependent kinase 2 by cyclin A in vitro. Connell-Crowley, L., Solomon, M.J., Wei, N., Harper, J.W. Mol. Biol. Cell (1993) [Pubmed]
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