Phosphorylation of the mRNA cap-binding protein eIF4E and cancer

Xiaotong Yang, Wu Zhong, Ruifeng Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Dysregulated protein synthesis is frequently involved in oncogenesis and cancer progression. Translation initiation is thought to be the rate-limiting step in protein synthesis, and the mRNA 5′ cap-binding protein eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) is a pivotal factor that initiates translation. The activities of eIF4E are regulated at multiple levels, one of which is through its phosphorylation at Serine 209 by the mitogen-activated protein kinase-interacting kinases (MNKs, including MNK1 and MNK2). Benefiting from novel mouse genetic tools and pharmacological MNK inhibitors, our understanding of a role for eIF4E phosphorylation in tumor biology and cancer therapy has greatly evolved in recent years. Importantly, recent studies have found that the level of eIF4E phosphorylation is frequently upregulated in a wide variety of human cancer types, and phosphorylation of eIF4E drives a number of important processes in cancer biology, including cell transformation, proliferation, apoptosis, metastasis and angiogenesis. The MNK-eIF4E axis is being assessed as a therapeutic target either alone or in combination with other therapies in different cancer models. As novel MNK inhibitors are being developed, experimental studies bring new hope to cure human cancers that are not responsive to traditional therapies. Herein we review recent progress on our understanding of a mechanistic role for phosphorylation of eIF4E in cancer biology and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109689
JournalCellular Signalling
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Robert Cormier for his critical reading of the manuscript. This study was supported by a National Institutes of Health Grant NS118026, a Faculty Start-Up Grant from the University of Minnesota Medical School, a Grant from University of Minnesota Foundation and a Grant from Whiteside Institute for Clinical Research to R.C., a Chinese National Science and Technology Major Project Grant (No. 2018ZX09711003 ) to W.Z.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020


  • Cancer
  • MNK
  • Phosphorylation
  • Translational control
  • eIF4E


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