Analysis: Transcriptional and posttranslational regulation of cell-cycle kinases

Daub and coworkers from Matthias Mann’s group recently published a paper in Molecular Cell, describing a phosphoproteomics study of kinases during S and M phase of the mitotic cell cycle:

Kinase-selective enrichment enables quantitative phosphoproteomics of the kinome across the cell cycle.

Protein kinases are pivotal regulators of cell signaling that modulate each other’s functions and activities through site-specific phosphorylation events. These key regulatory modifications have not been studied comprehensively, because low cellular abundance of kinases has resulted in their underrepresentation in previous phosphoproteome studies. Here, we combine kinase-selective affinity purification with quantitative mass spectrometry to analyze the cell-cycle regulation of protein kinases. This proteomics approach enabled us to quantify 219 protein kinases from S and M phase-arrested human cancer cells. We identified more than 1000 phosphorylation sites on protein kinases. Intriguingly, half of all kinase phosphopeptides were upregulated in mitosis. Our data reveal numerous unknown M phase-induced phosphorylation sites on kinases with established mitotic functions. We also find potential phosphorylation networks involving many protein kinases not previously implicated in mitotic progression. These results provide a vastly extended knowledge base for functional studies on kinases and their regulation through site-specific phosphorylation.

In the study, they identified phosphorylation sites for 219 protein kinases, of which 159 showed differential phosphorylation (at least two-fold induction for at least one site) in S and/or M phase.

My collaborators at CBS and I have previously shown that transcriptional and posttranslational regulation (for example, phosphorylation by cyclin-dependent kinases) tend to target the same proteins (de Lichtenberg et al., 2005; Jensen et al., 2006). One should thus expect that the differentially regulated kinases have a tendency to be encoded by periodically expressed genes.

To test this hypothesis, I compared the phosphoproteomics data of Daub et al. to the cell-cycle microarray expression study by Whitfield et al. (2002). I was able to map 132 of the 159 kinases to the microarrays and found that 17 of them are encoded by the top-600 cycling genes. This corresponds to a significant (P < 0.001) two-fold overrepresentation of transcriptional cell-cycle regulation among the genes encoding kinases that are differentially phosphorylated during S and/or M phase.

One could imagine that this trend is not specific to kinases that are differentially phosphorylated during the cell cycle, but that it instead applies to kinases in general. To test this, I also mapped the 60 non-modulated kinases found by Daub et al. to the microarrays (Whitfield et al., 2002). Of the 54 kinases that could be mapped, only 3 are encoded by periodically expressed genes, which is almost exactly what is expected by random chance.

I next examined if timing of phosphorylation correlates with the timing of expression of the 17 kinases mentioned above. The kinases can be divided into three classes: phosphorylated in S phase, phosphorylated in M phase, and phosphorylated in both S and M phase. Notably, 13 of the 17 kinases fall in to the M phase class. Looking at the peak times of expression for these (that is when in the cell-cycle the corresponding mRNAs are most highly expressed) reveals that 8 of the 13 kinases are presumably synthesized in M phase only shortly before they become phosphorylated.

In summary, comparison of the phosphoproteomics data from Daub et al. (2008) and the microarray expression data from Whitfield et al. (2002) supports the view that transcriptional and posttranslational regulation tend to target the same proteins during the mitotic cell cycle. Moreover, it shows that for most of the kinases that are subject to such dual cell-cycle control, both expression and phosphorylation takes place during M phase when the cyclin-dependent kinase activity is maximal.

Full disclosure: I currently collaborate with Matthias Mann and members of his group, and we will soon be colleagues a the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research.

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