Hoang VT, et al. J Biol Chem 2020.
Identifying additional mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway regulators is invaluable in aiding our understanding of the complex signaling networks that regulate cellular processes, including cell proliferation and survival. Here, using in vitro kinase assays and by expressing wild-type (WT) or kinase-dead (KD) MAPK kinase kinase 19 (MAP3K19) in the HEK293T cell line and assessing activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and JUN N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling pathways, we defined MAP3K19 as a novel regulator of MAPK signaling. We also observed that overexpression of WT MAP3K19 activates both the ERK and JNK pathways in a panel of cancer cell lines. Furthermore, MAP3K19 sustained ERK pathway activation in the presence of inhibitors targeting the RAF proto-oncogene Ser/Thr protein kinase (RAF) and MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK), indicating that MAP3K19 activates ERK via a RAF-independent mechanism. Findings from in vitro and in cell kinase assays demonstrate that MAP3K19 is a kinase that directly phosphorylates both MEK and MAPK kinase 7 (MKK7). Results from an shRNA screen indicated that MAP3K19 is essential for maintaining survival in KRAS-mutant cancers; therefore, we depleted or inhibited MAP3K19 in KRAS-mutant cancer cell lines and observed that this reduces viability and decreases ERK and JNK pathway activation. In summary, our results reveal that MAP3K19 directly activates the ERK and JNK cascades and highlight a role for this kinase in maintaining survival of KRAS-mutant lung cancer cells.