Although several multiprotein complexes containing MAPKs (mitogen-activated protein kinases) have been identified using overexpression of kinases and scaffold proteins, the components of the complexes and their physical properties at endogenous expression levels have not been defined. We characterized a large protein complex containing a nerve-growth-factor-activated ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) and MEK (MAPK/ ERK kinase) in rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells. This protein complex fractionated into a high-speed pellet and was resistant to non-ionic detergent treatments that solubilized membranes. Disruption of protein-protein interactions by treatment with high salt was required to facilitate immunoprecipitation of active ERK1 and co-precipitation of MEK1. Microtubule fragments were also present in the detergent-resistant high-speed pellet, and some kinases were bound to them, especially ERK1b (an alternatively spliced isoform of ERK1), which showed a strong preference for binding microtubules. The large protein complex containing ERK1 and MEK1 was resolved by velocity sedimentation from fragments of microtubules: however, it did not contain other scaffolding components known to bind ERK and MEK. B-Raf was also present in a distinct detergent-resistant, microtubule-independent protein complex slightly larger than that containing ERK and MEK. We conclude that there are two independent nerve growth factor-regulated 'signalling particles' with an estimated size of 60-75 S. one containing ERK1 and MEK1 and the other containing B-Raf. These signalling particles may have a role in the temporal and spatial regulation of kinase activity inside cells.
- Extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK)
- Mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular-signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK)
- Nerve growth factor (NGF)
- PC12 cell