The protein kinase PDK1 phosphorylates at least 24 distinct substrates, all of which belong to the AGC protein kinase group. Some substrates, such as conventional PKCs, undergo phosphorylation by PDK1 during their synthesis and subsequently get activated by DAG and Calcium. On the other hand, other substrates, including members of the Akt/PKB, S6K, SGK, and RSK families, undergo phosphorylation and activation downstream of PI3-kinase signaling. This review presents two accepted molecular mechanisms that determine the precise and timely phosphorylation of different substrates by PDK1. The first mechanism involves the colocalization of PDK1 with Akt/PKB in the presence of PIP3. The second mechanism involves the regulated docking interaction between the hydrophobic motif (HM) of substrates and the PIF-pocket of PDK1. This interaction, in trans, is equivalent to the molecular mechanism that governs the activity of AGC kinases through their HMs intramolecularly. PDK1 has been instrumental in illustrating the bi-directional allosteric communication between the PIF-pocket and the ATP-binding site and the potential of the system for drug discovery. PDK1's interaction with substrates is not solely regulated by the substrates themselves. Recent research indicates that full-length PDK1 can adopt various conformations based on the positioning of the PH domain relative to the catalytic domain. These distinct conformations of full-length PDK1 can influence the interaction and phosphorylation of substrates. Finally, we critically discuss recent findings proposing that PIP3 can directly regulate the activity of PDK1, which contradicts extensive in vitro and in vivo studies conducted over the years.

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