The RSK (90 kDa ribosomal S6 kinase) family comprises a group of highly related serine/threonine kinases that regulate diverse cellular processes, including cell growth, proliferation, survival and motility. This family includes four vertebrate isoforms (RSK1, RSK2, RSK3 and RSK4), and single family member orthologues are also present in Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans. The RSK isoforms are downstream effectors of the Ras/ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) signalling pathway. Significant advances in the field of RSK signalling have occurred in the past few years, including several new functions ascribed to the RSK isoforms, the discovery of novel protein substrates and the implication of different RSK isoforms in cancer. Collectively, these new findings increase the diversity of biological functions regulated by RSK, and highlight potential new directions of research. In the present paper, we review the structure, expression and activation mechanisms of the RSK isoforms, and discuss their physiological roles on the basis of established substrates and recent discoveries.

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