c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) was discovered almost 20 years ago as the protein kinase responsible for phosphorylating c-Jun at Ser-63 and Ser-73. These sites had previously been demonstrated to be essential for the stimulation of c-Jun activity and for cooperation with Ha-ras in oncogenic transformation. This led to the idea that JNK was a positive regulator of cellular transformation. However, the analysis of jnk gene deletion in various mouse models of cancer has produced conflicting findings, with some studies supporting the pro-oncogenic function of JNK and others providing evidence that JNK acts as a tumor suppressor. This review will discuss how these unexpected findings have increased our understanding of the role of JNK signaling in cancer and have provided a source of new working hypotheses.
Keywords: JNK; MAPK; MKK; Ras; c-Jun; cancer.