Nuclear translocation of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK1) in response to mitogenic stimulation

Hanna Jaaro, Hadara Rubinfeld, Tamar Hanoch, Rony Seger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) is a dual-specificity protein kinase that is located primarily in the cellular cytosol, both prior to and upon mitogenic stimulation. The existence of a nuclear export signal in the N-terminal domain of MEK [Fukuda, M., Gotoh, I., Gotoh, Y. and Nishida, E. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271, 20024-20028] suggests that there are circumstances under which MEK enters the nucleus and must be exported. Using mutants of MEK, we show that the deletion of the nuclear export signal sequence from constitutively active MEK caused constitutive localization of MEK in the nucleus of COS7 and HEK-293T cells. However, when the same region was deleted from a catalytically inactive MEK, cytoplasmic localization was observed in resting cells, which turned nuclear upon stimulation. Confocal microscopy of COS7 cells expressing the above mutants showed localization of the active MEK in the nuclear envelope and also in the cell periphery. The differences in cellular localization between the wild-type and mutant MEKs are not due to severe changes in specificity because the recombinant, constitutively active MEK that lacked its N-terminal region exhibited the same substrate specificity as the wild-type MEK, both in vitro and in intact cells. Taken together, our results indicate that upon mitogenic stimulation, MEK, like extracellular signal responsive kinase and p90(RSK), is massively translocated to the nucleus. Rapid export from the nucleus, which is mediated by the nuclear export signal, is probably the cause for the cytoplasmic distribution observed with wild-type MEK.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3742-3747
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • signal transduction
  • substrate specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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