Myotonic dystrophy kinase-related Cdc42-binding kinases (MRCK), the ROCK-like effectors of Cdc42 and Rac1

Small GTPases. 2015;6(2):81-8. doi: 10.1080/21541248.2014.1000699. Epub 2015 Jun 19.


Cdc42 is a member of the Rho GTPase protein family that plays key roles in local F-actin organization through a number of kinase and non-kinase effector proteins. The myotonic dystrophy kinase-related Cdc42-binding kinases (MRCKs), and the RhoA binding coiled-coil containing kinases (ROCKs) are widely expressed members of the Dystrophia myotonica protein kinase (DMPK) family. The MRCK proteins are ∼190 kDa multi-domain proteins expressed in all cells and coordinate certain acto-myosin networks. Notably MRCK is a key regulator of myosin18A and myosin IIA/B, and through phosphorylation of their common regulatory light chains (MYL9 or MLC2) to promote actin stress fiber contractility. The MRCK kinases are regulated by Cdc42, which is required for cell polarity and directional migration; MRCK links to the acto-myosin complex through interaction with a coiled-coil containing adaptor proteins LRAP35a/b. The biological activities of MRCK in model organisms such as worms and flies confirm it as a myosin II activator. In mammalian cell culture MRCK can be critical for cancer cell migration and neurite outgrowth. We review the current literatures regarding MRCK and highlight the similarities and differences between MRCK and ROCK kinases.

Keywords: Cdc42; Rho GTPase; acto-myosin; cell adhesion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myotonin-Protein Kinase / chemistry
  • Myotonin-Protein Kinase / metabolism*
  • Second Messenger Systems*
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / chemistry
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • rho-Associated Kinases / chemistry
  • rho-Associated Kinases / metabolism*


  • Myotonin-Protein Kinase
  • rho-Associated Kinases
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein