Kiegerl S, Cardinale F, Siligan C, Gross A, Baudouin E, Liwosz A, Eklof S, Till S, Bogre L, Hirt H, Meskiene I.
SIMKK, a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase, is a specific activator of the salt stress-induced MAPK, SIMK.
In eukaryotes, mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) play key roles in the transmission of external signals, such as mitogens, hormones, and different stresses. MAPKs are activated by MAPK kinases through phosphorylation of MAPKs at both the threonine and tyrosine residues of the conserved TXY activation motif. In plants, several MAPKs are involved in signaling of hormones, stresses, cell cycle, and developmental cues. Recently, we showed that salt stress-induced MAPK (SIMK) is activated when alfalfa cells are exposed to hyperosmotic conditions. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of the alfalfa MAPK kinase SIMKK (SIMK kinase). SIMKK encodes an active protein kinase that interacts specifically with SIMK, but not with three other MAPKs, in the yeast two-hybrid system. Recombinant SIMKK specifically activates SIMK by phosphorylating both the threonine and tyrosine residues in the activation loop of SIMK. SIMKK contains a putative MAPK docking site at the N terminus that is conserved in mammalian MAPK kinases, transcription factors, and phosphatases. Removal of the MAPK docking site of SIMKK partially compromises but does not completely abolish interaction with SIMK, suggesting that other domains of SIMKK also are involved in MAPK binding. In transient expression assays, SIMKK specifically activates SIMK but not two other MAPKs. Moreover, SIMKK enhances the salt-induced activation of SIMK. These data suggest that the salt-induced activation of SIMK is mediated by the dual-specificity protein kinase SIMKK.