Intermediate filament proteins have been isolated from ME-180, cells of a human cervical carcinoma. Eight of these proteins have been identified as keratins by immunologic cross-reactivity to antibodies raised against authentic human epidermal keratins. The ME-180 keratin proteins consist of two major subunits designated MEK-1 and MEK-2 with approximate molecular weights of 58,000 and 53,000, respectively, and six minor subunits of 59, 57, 52.5, 50.5, 45, and 40 kilodaltons. When ME-180 cells were incubated for 2-24 h in the presence of [32P]orthophosphate, MEK-1 and MEK-2 as well as the 52.5- and 40-kilodalton keratins were phosphorylated at their serine residues. V8 protease digests revealed that phosphorylation of MEK-2 is restricted to one peptide representing approximately half the molecule. Regulation of MEK-1 and MEK-2 phosphorylation has been studied by prelabeling the cells for 2 h in 32P-labeled medium. This was followed by up to 2 h of continued incubation in the same medium after the addition of a variety of perturbing agents. The phosphorylation of MEK-2 increased in the presence of 10(-4) M dibutyryl cyclic AMP (twofold), 1 mM methylisobutylxanthine (2.5-fold), 10(-5) M isoproterenol (fivefold), and 10(-9) M cholera toxin (sevenfold). In contrast, MEK-1 phosphorylation was unaffected by these agents. Neither cyclic GMP, Ca++, hydrocortisone, nor epidermal growth factor had any effect on the phosphorylation of MEK-1 or MEK-2. The results indicate that the phosphorylation of these two keratins is independently controlled by cyclic AMP-dependent kinase for MEK-2 and by cyclic nucleotide-independent kinase for MEK-1. The observed differences in control suggest distinct functions for MEK-1 and MEK-2 within the cytoskeletal network.

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