Serpentine receptors coupled to the heterotrimeric G protein, Gi2, are capable of stimulating DNA synthesis in a variety of cell types. A common feature of the Gi2‐coupled stimulation of DNA synthesis is the activation of the mitogen‐activated protein kinases (MAPKs). The regulation of MAPK activation by the Gi2‐coupled thrombin and acetylcholine muscarinic M2 receptors occurs by a sequential activation of a network of protein kinases. The MAPK kinase (MEK) which phosphorylates and activates MAPK is also activated by phosphorylation. MEK is phosphorylated and activated by either Raf or MEK kinase (MEKK). Thus, Raf and MEKK converge at MEK to regulate MAPK. Gi2‐coupled receptors are capable of activating MEK and MAPK by Raf‐dependent and Raf‐independent mechanisms. Pertussis toxin catalyzed ADP‐ribosylation of αi2 inhibits both the Raf‐dependent and‐independent pathways activated by Gi2‐coupled receptors. The Raf‐dependent pathway involves Ras activation, while the Raf‐independent activation of MEK and MAPK does not involve Ras. The Raf‐independent activation of MEK and MAPK most likely involves the activation of MEKK. The vertebrate MEKK is homologous to the Ste11 and Byr2 protein kinases in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, respectively. The yeast Ste11 and Byr2 protein kinases are involved in signal transduction cascades initiated by pheromone receptors having a 7 membrane spanning serpentine structure coupled to G proteins. MEKK appears to be conserved in the regulation of G protein‐coupled signal pathways in yeast and vertebrates. Raf represents a divergence in vertebrates from the yeast pheromone‐responsive protein kinase system. Defining MEKK and Raf as a divergence in the MAPK regulatory network provides a mechanism for differential regulation of this system by Gi2‐coupled receptors as well as other receptor systems, including the tyrosine kinases.
- DNA synthesis
- serpentine receptors