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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Different designs of kinase-phosphatase interactions and phosphatase sequestration shapes the robustness and signal flow in the MAPK cascade

Uddipan Sarma1 and Indira Ghosh2

Author affiliations

1 National Centre for Cell Science, Ganeshkhind, Pune-7, India

2 School of Computational and Integrative Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-67, India

Citation and License

BMC Systems Biology 2012, 6:82  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-6-82

Published: 2 July 2012

Abstract

Background

The three layer mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascade exhibits different designs of interactions between its kinases and phosphatases. While the sequential interactions between the three kinases of the cascade are tightly preserved, the phosphatases of the cascade, such as MKP3 and PP2A, exhibit relatively diverse interactions with their substrate kinases. Additionally, the kinases of the MAPK cascade can also sequester their phosphatases. Thus, each topologically distinct interaction design of kinases and phosphatases could exhibit unique signal processing characteristics, and the presence of phosphatase sequestration may lead to further fine tuning of the propagated signal.

Results

We have built four architecturally distinct types of models of the MAPK cascade, each model with identical kinase-kinase interactions but unique kinases-phosphatases interactions. Our simulations unravelled that MAPK cascade’s robustness to external perturbations is a function of nature of interaction between its kinases and phosphatases. The cascade’s output robustness was enhanced when phosphatases were sequestrated by their target kinases. We uncovered a novel implicit/hidden negative feedback loop from the phosphatase MKP3 to its upstream kinase Raf-1, in a cascade resembling the B cell MAPK cascade. Notably, strength of the feedback loop was reciprocal to the strength of phosphatases’ sequestration and stronger sequestration abolished the feedback loop completely. An experimental method to verify the presence of the feedback loop is also proposed. We further showed, when the models were activated by transient signal, memory (total time taken by the cascade output to reach its unstimulated level after removal of signal) of a cascade was determined by the specific designs of interaction among its kinases and phosphatases.

Conclusions

Differences in interaction designs among the kinases and phosphatases can differentially shape the robustness and signal response behaviour of the MAPK cascade and phosphatase sequestration dramatically enhances the robustness to perturbations in each of the cascade. An implicit negative feedback loop was uncovered from our analysis and we found that strength of the negative feedback loop is reciprocally related to the strength of phosphatase sequestration. Duration of output phosphorylation in response to a transient signal was also found to be determined by the individual cascade’s kinase-phosphatase interaction design.