We have identified a new gene, designated lok (lymphocyte-oriented kinase), that encodes a 966-amino acid protein kinase whose catalytic domain at the N terminus shows homology to that of the STE20 family members involved in mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascades. The non-catalytic domain of LOK does not have any similarity to that of other known members of the family. There is a proline-rich motif with Src homology region 3 binding potential, followed by a long coiled-coil structure at the C terminus. LOK is expressed as a 130-kDa protein, which was detected predominantly in lymphoid organs such as spleen, thymus, and bone marrow, in contrast to other mammalian members of the STE20 family. LOK phosphorylated itself as well as substrates such as myelin basic protein and histone IIA on serine and threonine residues but not on tyrosine residues, establishing LOK as a novel serine/threonine kinase. When coexpressed in COS7 cells with the known MAP kinase isoforms (ERK, JNK, and p38), LOK activated none of them in contrast to PAK- and GCK-related kinases. These results suggest that LOK could be involved in a novel signaling pathway in lymphocytes, which is distinct from the known MAP kinase cascades.
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