The ubiquitin proteasome system degrades the great majority of proteins in mammalian cells. Countless studies have described how ubiquitination promotes the selective degradation of different cell proteins. However, there is a small but growing literature that protein half-lives can also be regulated by post-translational modifications of the 26S proteasome. The present study reviews the ability of several kinases to alter proteasome function through subunit phosphorylation. For example, PKA (protein kinase A) and DYRK2 (dual-specificity tyrosine-regulated kinase 2) stimulate the proteasome's ability to degrade ubiquitinated proteins, peptides, and adenosine triphosphate, while one kinase, ASK1 (apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1), inhibits proteasome function during apoptosis. Proteasome phosphorylation is likely to be important in regulating protein degradation because it occurs downstream from many hormones and neurotransmitters, in conditions that raise cyclic adenosine monophosphate or cyclic guanosine monophosphate levels, after calcium influx following synaptic depolarization, and during phases of the cell cycle. Beyond its physiological importance, pharmacological manipulation of proteasome phosphorylation has the potential to combat various diseases. Inhibitors of phosphodiesterases by activating PKA or PKG (protein kinase G) can stimulate proteasomal degradation of misfolded proteins that cause neurodegenerative or myocardial diseases and even reduce the associated pathology in mouse models. These observations are promising since in many proteotoxic diseases, aggregation-prone proteins impair proteasome function, and disrupt protein homeostasis. Conversely, preventing subunit phosphorylation by DYRK2 slows cell cycle progression and tumor growth. However, further research is essential to determine how phosphorylation of different subunits by these (or other) kinases alters the properties of this complex molecular machine and thus influence protein degradation rates.

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