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Protein tyrosine kinases are important enzymes for cell signalling and key targets for anticancer drug discovery. The catalytic mechanisms of protein tyrosine kinase-catalysed phosphorylation are not fully understood. Protein tyrosine kinase Csk requires two Mg2+ cations for activity: one (M1) binds to ATP, and the other (M2) acts as an essential activator.


Experiments in this communication characterize the interaction between M2 and Csk. Csk activity is sensitive to pH in the range of 6 to 7. Kinetic characterization indicates that the sensitivity is not due to altered substrate binding, but caused by the sensitivity of M2 binding to pH. Several residues in the active site with potential of binding M2 are mutated and the effect on metal activation studied. An active mutant of Asn319 is generated, and this mutation does not alter the metal binding characteristics. Mutations of Glu236 or Asp332 abolish the kinase activity, precluding a positive or negative conclusion on their role in M2 coordination. Finally, the ability of divalent metal cations to activate Csk correlates to a combination of ionic radius and the coordination number.


These studies demonstrate that M2 binding to Csk is sensitive to pH, which is mainly responsible for Csk activity change in the acidic arm of the pH response curve. They also demonstrate critical differences in the metal activator coordination sphere in protein tyrosine kinase Csk and a protein Ser/Thr kinase, the cAMP-dependent protein kinase. They shed light on the physical interactions between a protein tyrosine kinase and a divalent metal activator.

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