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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Development of a sensitive non-radioactive protein kinase assay and its application for detecting DYRK activity in Xenopus laevis oocytes

Eva Lilienthal, Katharina Kolanowski and Walter Becker*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical Faculty of the RWTH Aachen University, Wendlingweg 2, 52074 Aachen, Germany

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BMC Biochemistry 2010, 11:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2091-11-20

Published: 20 May 2010



Although numerous non-radioactive methods are in use to measure the catalytic activity of protein kinases, most require specialized equipment and reagents and are not sufficiently sensitive for the detection of endogenous kinase activity in biological samples. Kinases of the DYRK family have important functions in developmental and pathophysiological processes in eukaryotic organisms including mammals. We aimed to develop a highly sensitive, low-tech assay suitable to determine the activity of DYRK family kinases in tissues or cells from diverse sources.


Phosphorylation-site specific antibodies can be used to monitor the accumulation of the phosphorylated product in kinase assays. We present a modified configuration of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-based kinase assay by using the phosphospecific antibody as the capture antibody. This assay format allowed the detection of small amounts of phosphopeptide in mixtures with an excess of the unphosphorylated substrate peptide (10 fmol phosphorylated peptide over a background of 50 pmol unphosphorylated peptide). Consequently, low substrate turnover rates can be determined. We applied this method to the measurement of endogenous DYRK1A activity in mouse heart tissue by immunocomplex kinase assay. Furthermore, we detected DYRK1-like kinase activity in Xenopus laevis oocytes and identified this kinase as a DYRK1 isoform distinct from the Xenopus DYRK1A ortholog.


We present a non-radioactive and highly sensitive method for the measurement of endogenous activities of DYRKs in biological samples. Xenopus laevis oocytes contain an active DYRK1-related protein kinase more similar to mammalian DYRK1B than DYRK1A.