Protein kinases are mutated or otherwise rendered constitutively active in numerous cancers where they are attractive therapeutic targets with well over a dozen kinase inhibitors now being used in therapy. While fluorescent sensors have capacity to measure changes in kinase activity, surprisingly they have not been utilized for biomarker studies. A first-generation peptide sensor for ERK based on the Sox fluorophore is described. This sensor called ERK-sensor-D1 possesses high activity toward ERK and more than 10-fold discrimination over other MAPKs. The sensor can rapidly quantify ERK activity in cell lysates and monitor ERK pathway engagement by BRAF and MEK inhibitors in cultured melanoma cell lines. The dynamic range of the sensor assay allows ERK activities that have potential for profound clinical consequences to be rapidly distinguished.
Keywords: ERK; biomarker; melanoma.