Cell cycle-regulated phosphorylation of p21-activated kinase 1

Curr Biol. 2002 Jul 23;12(14):1227-32. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(02)00931-4.


Mammalian p21-activated kinase 1 (Pak1) is a highly conserved effector for the small GTPases Cdc42 and Rac1. In lower eukaryotes, Pak1 homologs are regulated during the cell cycle by phosphorylation. Here, we show that Pak1 is phosphorylated during mitosis in mammalian fibroblasts. This phosphorylation occurs at a single site, Thr 212, within a domain that is unique to Pak1. Cdc2 phosphorylates Pak1 at the identical site in vitro, and inhibition of Cdc2 abolishes Pak1 mitotic phosphorylation in vivo, indicating that Cdc2 is the kinase responsible for phosphorylating Pak1 in mitotic cells. Expression of a Pak1 mutant in which Thr 212 is replaced with a phosphomimic (aspartic acid) has marked effects on the rate and extent of postmitotic spreading of fibroblasts. The mitotic phosphorylation of Pak1 does not alter the basal or Rac-stimulated activity of this kinase, but it does affect the coimmunoprecipitation of at least three proteins with Pak1. These findings are the first to implicate a mammalian Pak in cell cycle regulation and suggest that Pakl, as a result of phosphorylation by Cdc2, alters its association with binding partners and/or substrates that are relevant to the morphologic changes associated with cell division.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Mice
  • Mitosis
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / chemistry
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Threonine / metabolism
  • p21-Activated Kinases


  • Threonine
  • Pak1 protein, mouse
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • p21-Activated Kinases
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase