ERK5 is a member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family that, after stimulation, is activated selectively by dual phosphorylation in the TEY motif by MAPK kinase 5 (MEK5). ERK5 plays an important role in regulating cell proliferation, survival, differentiation and stress response. Moreover, it is involved in G2/M progression and timely mitotic entry. ERK5 is phosphorylated during mitosis, but the molecular mechanism by which it is regulated during this phase is still unclear. Here we show that although ERK5 is phosphorylated in mitosis, this does not occur on the activation motif (TEY), but at its C-terminal half. We have identified five sites of ERK5 phosphorylation in mitosis, two of them unknown. Furthermore, we demonstrate that ERK5 phosphorylation in mitosis is not MEK5-dependent, but rather, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-dependent. Using a mutagenesis approach, we analysed the importance of the phosphorylated residues in ERK5 function; our evidence show that phosphorylation in mitosis of the residues identified inhibits ERK5 activity and regulates ERK5 shuttling from cytoplasm to the nucleus. These results reveal a previously unreported form of ERK5 regulation by phosphorylation and establish a link between CDK and ERK5 pathways during mitosis, which could be crucial for the correct progression of the cell cycle.
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