We examined the ability of protein kinase activities from BHK (baby-hamster kidney) cells infected with pseudorabies virus to catalyse the phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 in vitro. When the cytosol from infected cells was fractionated on DEAE-cellulose, 40S ribosomal protein kinase activity was found associated with the two isoforms of the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase, protein kinase C and a protein kinase (ViPK, virus-induced protein kinase) only detected in infected cells. The phosphorylation of ribosomal protein by ViPK was of particular interest because the appearance of the protein kinase and the increase in the phosphorylation of protein S6 in infected cells shared a similar time course. At moderate concentrations of KCl the major ribosomal substrate for ViPK was ribosomal protein S7, a protein not found to be phosphorylated in vivo. However, at 600 mM-KCl, or in the presence of 5-10 mM-spermine at 60-150 mM-KCl, the phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S7 was suppressed and ribosomal protein S6 became the major substrate. The maximum stoichiometry of phosphorylation obtained under the latter conditions was 1-2 mol of phosphate/mol of S6, and only mono- and di-phosphorylated forms of S6 were detected on two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. As the infection of BHK cells by pseudorabies virus results in the appearance of phosphorylated species of S6 containing up to 5 mol of phosphate/mol of S6 protein, it appears unlikely that ViPK alone can be responsible for the multiple phosphorylation seen in vivo. Nevertheless, tryptic phosphopeptide analysis did indicate that in vitro ViPK catalysed the phosphorylation of at least one of the sites on ribosomal protein S6 phosphorylated in vivo, so that a contributory role for the enzyme in the phosphorylation in vivo cannot be excluded.

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