Human disc-large homolog (hDlg), also known as synapse-associated protein 97, is a scaffold protein, a member of the membrane-associated guanylate kinase family, implicated in neuronal synapses and epithelial-epithelial cell junctions whose expression and function remains poorly characterized in most tissues, particularly in the vasculature. In human vascular tissues, hDlg is highly expressed in smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). Using the yeast two-hybrid system to screen a human aorta cDNA library, we identified mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-responsive kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK)2, a member of the ERK cascade, as an hDlg binding partner. Site-directed mutagenesis showed a major involvement of the PSD-95, disc-large, ZO-1 domain-2 of hDlg and the C-terminal sequence RTAV of MEK2 in this interaction. Coimmunoprecipitation assays in both human VSMCs and human embryonic kidney 293 cells, demonstrated that endogenous hDlg physically interacts with MEK2 but not with MEK1. Confocal microscopy suggested a colocalization of the two proteins at the inner layer of the plasma membrane of confluent human embryonic kidney 293 cells, and in a perinuclear area in human VSMCs. Additionally, hDlg also associates with the endoplasmic reticulum and microtubules in these latter cells. Taken together, these findings allow us to hypothesize that hDlg acts as a MEK2-specific scaffold protein for the ERK signaling pathway, and may improve our understanding of how scaffold proteins, such as hDlg, differentially tune MEK1/MEK2 signaling and cell responses.
© 2011 The Authors Journal compilation © 2011 FEBS.