Ser910 of FAK (focal adhesion kinase) was phosphorylated in fibroblasts treated with the phorbol ester PMA and dephosphorylated by PP1δ (protein phosphatase 1δ), as indicated by shRNA (small-hairpin RNA) gene silencing. Ser910 of FAK was reported previously to be an ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) 1/2 target in cells treated with phorbol esters. In contrast, various approaches, including the use of the MEK (mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase) inhibitors UO126 and CI-1040 to inhibit ERK1/2 pointed to the involvement of ERK5. This hypothesis was confirmed by: (i) shRNA ERK5 gene silencing, which resulted in complete pSer910 loss in non-stimulated and PMA-stimulated cells; (ii) direct phosphorylation of recombinant FAK by ERK5; and (iii) ERK5 activation by PMA. PMA stimulation and ERK5 silencing in MDA-MB 231 and MDA-MB 361 breast cancer cells indicated Ser910 targeting by ERK5 also in these cells. Given the proximity of Ser910 to the FAT (focal adhesion targeting) regulatory domain of FAK, cell proliferation and morphology were investigated in FAK−/− cells expressing S910A mutant FAK. The cell growth rate decreased and exposure to PMA induced peculiar morphological changes in cells expressing S910A, with respect to wild-type FAK, suggesting a role for Ser910 in these processes. The present study indicates, for the first time, the phosphorylation of Ser910 of FAK by ERK5 and its dephosphorylation by PP1δ, and suggested a role for Ser910 in the control of cell shape and proliferation.

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