Vaccinia-related kinase 1 (VRK1) is a chromatin-associated Ser-Thr kinase that regulates numerous downstream factors including DNA repair as well as stress factors c-Jun and p53. Both c-Jun and p53 are phosphorylated at Ser63 and Thr18, respectively, in response to low glucose (40 mg/dl of medium) but not high glucose (140 mg/dl of medium) in human hepatoma-derived Huh-7 cells. Here, we have determined the molecular mechanism by which VRK1 phosphorylates these residues in response to glucose in Huh-7 cells. Human VRK1 auto-phosphorylates Ser376 and Thr386 in in vitro kinase assays. In Huh-7 cells, this auto-phosphorylation activity is regulated by glucose signaling; Thr386 is auto-phosphorylated only in low glucose medium, while Ser376 is not phosphorylated in either medium. A correlation of this low glucose response phosphorylation of Thr386 with the phosphorylation of c-Jun and p53 suggests that VRK1 phosphorylated at Thr386 catalyzes this phosphorylation. In fact, VRK1 knockdown by siRNA decreases and over-expression of VRK1 T386D increases phosphorylated c-Jun and p53 in Huh-7 cells. Phosphorylation by VRK1 of c-Jun but not p53 is regulated by cadherin Plakophilin-2 (PKP2). The PKP2 is purified from whole extracts of Huh-7 cells cultured in low glucose medium and is characterized to bind a C-terminal peptide of the VRK1 molecules to regulate its substrate specificity toward c-Jun. siRNA knockdowns show that PKP2 transduces low glucose signaling to VRK1 only to phosphorylate c-Jun, establishing the low glucose-PKP2-VRK1-c-Jun pathway as a glucose stress signaling pathway.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology