Physiological regulation of the CDK16/PCTAIRE-1 protein kinase and its proposed role in the brain

Cell signalling, mediated to a large extent by protein kinase phosphorylation, plays a vital role in regulation of cellular function. PCTAIRE-1 (also known as cyclin-dependent protein kinase (CDK)16), is a Ser/Thr kinase that has been implicated in many cellular processes, including cell cycle, apoptosis, insulin secretion, spermatogenesis, neurite outgrowth, and vesicle trafficking. Most recently, it has been proposed as a novel X-linked intellectual disability (XLID) gene, where loss-of-function mutations have been found in patients. The precise molecular mechanisms that regulate PCTAIRE-1 remained largely obscure, and only few substrates have been proposed with no clear functional significance and physiological role. To understand the function of PCTAIRE-1, we previously utilised a peptide library screen to determine the consensus phosphorylation motif. We showed that PCTAIRE-1 preferentially phosphorylated peptide motifs that differed from the classical CDK family substrate preference, suggesting a more distinct role for the kinase. Furthermore, we showed that cyclin Y, a novel cyclin, robustly binds and activates PCTAIRE-1 > 100-fold. In this thesis, we have identified two phosphorylation sites on cyclin Y that are essential for binding the well-known adaptor protein 14-3-3, which we propose stabilizes cyclin Y in a favourable PCTAIRE-1-binding conformation. Mutation of these sites to non-phosphorylatable Ser residues abolished PCTAIRE-1 binding and activation. Furthermore, we have cloned human PCTAIRE-1 mutants identified in XLID patients, and confirmed their failure to bind the cyclin Y-14-3-3 activating complex. In order to understand the physiological relevance of PCTAIRE-1 activity, we have utilised a chemical genetics approach that exploits the ability of an engineered PCTAIRE-1 mutant to selectively modify its substrates, allowing them to be uniquely purified. We have identified three PCTAIRE-1 substrates (AAK1, dynamin 1 and synaptojanin 1) in mouse brain that regulate crucial steps of receptor endocytosis, namely receptor binding, vesicle scission and vesicle uncoating, which are all involved in the regulation of neuronal synaptic transmission. Collectively, this thesis work has provided key molecular regulatory mechanisms and potential downstream targets of PCTAIRE-1, which has laid the foundations for future studies of the role that PCTAIRE-1 plays in specific cellular functions and physiological and pathological settings.


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