Background: Protein kinase A (cAMP-dependent kinase, PKA) is a serine/threonine kinase, for which ca. 150 substrate proteins are known. Based on a refinement of the recognition motif using the available experimental data, we wished to apply the simplified substrate protein binding model for accurate prediction of PKA phosphorylation sites, an approach that was previously successful for the prediction of lipid posttranslational modifications and of the PTS1 peroxisomal translocation signal.
Results: Approximately 20 sequence positions flanking the phosphorylated residue on both sides have been found to be restricted in their sequence variability (region -18...+23 with the site at position 0). The conserved physical pattern can be rationalized in terms of a qualitative binding model with the catalytic cleft of the protein kinase A. Positions -6...+4 surrounding the phosphorylation site are influenced by direct interaction with the kinase in a varying degree. This sequence stretch is embedded in an intrinsically disordered region composed preferentially of hydrophilic residues with flexible backbone and small side chain. This knowledge has been incorporated into a simplified analytical model of productive binding of substrate proteins with PKA.
Conclusion: The scoring function of the pkaPS predictor can confidently discriminate PKA phosphorylation sites from serines/threonines with non-permissive sequence environments (sensitivity of appoximately 96% at a specificity of approximately 94%). The tool "pkaPS" has been applied on the whole human proteome. Among new predicted PKA targets, there are entirely uncharacterized protein groups as well as apparently well-known families such as those of the ribosomal proteins L21e, L22 and L6.
Availability: The supplementary data as well as the prediction tool as WWW server are available at http://mendel.imp.univie.ac.at/sat/pkaPS.
Reviewers: Erik van Nimwegen (Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland), Sandor Pongor (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Trieste, Italy), Igor Zhulin (University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA).