In molecular biology, extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) or classical MAP kinases are widely expressed protein kinase intracellular signalling molecules that are involved in functions including the regulation of meiosis, mitosis, and postmitotic functions in differentiated cells. Many different stimuli, including growth factors, cytokines, virus infection, ligands for heterotrimeric G protein-coupled receptors, transforming agents, and carcinogens, activate the ERK pathway.
The term, "extracellular-signal-regulated kinases", is sometimes used as a synonym for mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), but has more recently been adopted for a specific subset of the mammalian MAPK family. In the MAPK/ERK pathway, Ras activates c-Raf, followed by mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (abbreviated as MKK, MEK, or MAP2K) and then MAPK1/2 (below). Ras is typically activated by growth hormones through receptor tyrosine kinases and GRB2/SOS, but may also receive other signals. ERKs are known to activate many transcription factors, such as ELK1, and some downstream protein kinases. Disruption of the ERK pathway is common in cancers, especially Ras, c-Raf and receptors such as HER2.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase 1
Mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 (MAPK1)
is also known as "extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2" (ERK2). Two similar (85% sequence identity) protein kinases were originally called ERK1 and ERK2.
They were found during a search for protein kinases that are rapidly phosphorylated
after activation of cell surface tyrosine kinases
such as the epidermal growth factor receptor
. Phosphorylation of ERKs leads to the activation of their kinase activity.
The molecular events linking cell surface receptors to activation of ERKs are complex. It was found that Ras GTP-binding proteins are involved in the activation of ERKs. Another protein kinase, Raf-1, was shown to phosphorylate a "MAPK kinase", thus qualifying as a "MAPK kinase kinase". The MAPK kinase was named "MAPK/ERK kinase" (MEK).
Receptor-linked tyrosine kinases, Ras, Raf, MEK, and MAPK could be fitted into a signaling cascade linking an extracellular signal to MAPK activation. See: MAPK/ERK pathway.
Transgenic gene knockout mice lacking MAPK1 have major defects in early development.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase 3
Mitogen-activated protein kinase 3 (MAPK3)
is also known as "extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1" (ERK1). Transgenic gene knockout
mice lacking MAPK3
are viable and it is thought that MAPK1 can fulfill most MAPK3
functions in most cells.
The main exception is in T cells
. Mice lacking MAPK3
have reduced T cell development past the CD4+
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