MAP Kinase Signaling Protocols

Volume 661 of the series Methods in Molecular Biology pp 39-58


Determination of ERK Activity: Anti-phospho-ERK Antibodies and In Vitro Phosphorylation

  • Shiri ProcacciaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science
  • , Sarah KrausAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science
  • , Rony SegerAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science Email author 

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The ERK signaling cascade is composed of several protein kinases that sequentially activate each other by phosphorylation. This pathway is a central component of a complex signaling network that regulates important cellular processes including proliferation, differentiation, and survival. In most of these cases, the ERK cascade is activated downstream of the small GTPase Ras that, upon activation, recruits and activates the first tier in the cascade, which contains the Raf kinases. Afterward the signal is further transmitted by MEKs, ERKs, and often RSKs in the MAPKK, MAPK, and MAPKAPKs tiers of the cascade, respectively. ERKs and RSKs can further disseminate the signal by phosphorylating and modulating the activity of a large number of regulatory proteins including transcription factors and chromatin modifying enzymes. Understanding the mechanisms of activation and the regulation of the various components of this cascade will enhance our insight into the regulation of the ERK-dependent cellular processes in normal cells or of their malfunctioning in various diseases, including cancer. In this chapter, we describe methods used to determine the activity of ERKs, which upon slight modifications can also be used for the study of other signaling kinases, either within the cascade or in other pathways. These methods have been successfully applied to study the ERK signaling cascades in a variety of tissue-cultured cell lines, homo­genized animal organs, and lower organisms. As such, the use of these methods should expand our knowledge on the regulation of many distinct systems and upon induction of various stimulations.

Key words

Raf MEK ERK phosphorylation