The principal rapamycin-sensitive p70(s6k) phosphorylation sites, T-229 and T-389, are differentially regulated by rapamycin-insensitive kinase kinases

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Mitogen-induced activation of p70(s6k) is associated with the phosphorylation of specific sites which are negatively affected by the immunosuppressant rapamycin, the fungal metabolite wortmannin, and the methylxanthine SQ20006. Recent reports have focused on the role of the amino terminus of the p85(s6k) isoform in mediating kinase activity, with the observation that amino-terminal truncation mutants are activated in the presence of rapamycin while retaining their sensitivity to wortmannin. Here we show that the effects of previously described amino- and carboxy-terminal truncations on kinase activity are ultimately reflected in the phosphorylation state of the enzyme. Mutation of the principal rapamycin-targeted phosphorylation site, T- 389, to an acidic residue generates a form of the kinase which is as resistant to wortmannin or SQ20006 as it is to rapamycin, consistent with the previous observation that T-389 was a common target of all three inhibitors. Truncation of the first 54 residues of the amino terminus blocks the serum-induced phosphorylation of three rapamycin- sensitive sites, T-229 in the activation loop and T-389 and S-404 in the linker region. This correlates with a severe reduction in the ability of the kinase to be activated by serum. However, loss of mitogen activation conferred by the removal of the amino terminus is reversed by additional truncation of the carboxy-terminal domain, with the resulting mutant demonstrating phosphorylation of the remaining two rapamycin-sensitive sites, T-229 and T-389. In this double-truncation mutant, phosphorylation of T-229 occurs in the basal state, whereas mitogen stimulation is required to induce acute upregulation of T-389 phosphorylation. The phosphorylation of both sites proceeds unimpaired in the presence of rapamycin, indicating that the kinases responsible for the phosphorylation of these sites are not inhibited by the macrolide. In contrast, activation of the double-truncation mutant is blocked in the presence of wortmannin or SQ20006, and these agents completely block the phosphorylation of T-389 while having only a marginal effect on T-229 phosphorylation. When the T-389 site is mutated to an acidic residue in the double-truncation background, the activation of the resulting mutant is insensitive to the wortmannin and SQ20006 block, but interestingly, the mutant is activated to a significantly greater level than a control in the presence of rapamycin. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that T-389 is the principal regulatory phosphorylation site, which, in combination with hyperphosphorylation of the autoinhibitory domain S/TP sites, is acutely regulated by external effectors, whereas T-229 phosphorylation is regulated primarily by internal mechanisms.

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