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The isothiocyanate class of bioactive nutrients covalently inhibit the MEKK1 protein kinase

Cross, Janet V.; Foss, Frank W.; Rady, Joshua M.; Macdonald, Timothy L.; Templeton, Dennis J.

Background: Dietary isothiocyanates (ITCs) are electrophilic compounds that have diverse biological activities including induction of apoptosis and effects on cell cycle. They protect against experimental carcinogenesis in animals, an activity believed to result from the transcriptional induction of "Phase 2" enzymes. The molecular mechanism of action of ITCs is unknown. Since ITCs are electrophiles capable of reacting with sulfhydryl groups on amino acids, we hypothesized that ITCs induce their biological effects through covalent modification of proteins, leading to changes in cell regulatory events. We previously demonstrated that stress-signaling kinase pathways are inhibited by other electrophilic compounds such as menadione. We therefore tested the effects of nutritional ITCs on MEKK1, an upstream regulator of the SAPK/JNK signal transduction pathway.
Methods: The activity of MEKK1 expressed in cells was monitored using in vitro kinase assays to measure changes in catalytic activity. The activity of endogenous MEKK1, immunopurified from ITC treated and untreated LnCAP cells was also measured by in vitro kinase assay. A novel labeling and affinity reagent for detection of protein modification by ITCs was synthesized and used in competition assays to monitor direct modification of MEKK1 by ITC. Finally, immunoblots with phospho-specific antibodies were used to measure the activity of MAPK protein kinases.
Results: ITCs inhibited the MEKK1 protein kinase in a manner dependent on a specific cysteine residue in the ATP binding pocket. Inhibition of MEKK1 catalytic activity was due to direct, covalent and irreversible modification of the MEKK1 protein itself. In addition, ITCs inhibited the catalytic activity of endogenous MEKK1. This correlated with inhibition of the downstream target of MEKK1 activity, i.e. the SAPK/JNK kinase. This inhibition was specific to SAPK, as parallel MAPK pathways were unaffected.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate that MEKK1 is directly modified and inhibited by ITCs, and that this correlates with inhibition of downstream activation of SAPK. These results support the conclusion that ITCs may carry out many of their actions by directly targeting important cell regulatory proteins.

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Academic Units
Chemistry
Publisher
BioMed Central
Published Here
September 9, 2014