Phosphorylation-specific antibodies provide a powerful tool for analysing the regulation and activity of proteins in the MAP (mitogen-activated protein) kinase and other signalling pathways. Using synchronized cells, it was observed that phosphorylation-specific antibodies developed against the active form of MKK1/MKK2 (MAP kinase kinase-1 and -2) reacted with a protein that was approx. 35 kDa during G2/M-phase of the cell cycle. Failure of the 35 kDa protein to react with phosphorylation-independent MKK1/MKK2 antibodies suggested that this protein was not related to MKK1 or MKK2. Thus the 35 kDa protein was isolated by immunoprecipitation with the phospho-MKK1/MKK2 antibody and identified by MS. Peptide sequence analysis revealed matches with NPM (nucleophosmin/B23), a phosphoprotein involved in nucleolar assembly, centrosome duplication and ribosome assembly and transport. Biochemical and immunocytochemistry analyses verified that the phospho-MKK1/MKK2 antibodies cross-reacted with NPM that was phosphorylated at Thr234 and Thr237 during G2/M-phase, which are the same sites that are targeted by Cdc2 (cell division cycle protein-2) during mitosis. Using phosphorylation site mutants, we show that phosphorylation of Thr234 and Thr237 is required for NPM immunoreactivity with the phospho-MKK1/MKK2 antibody. Moreover, phosphorylation of Thr234 and Thr237 was demonstrated to regulate NPM localization to the centrosome after nuclear envelope breakdown in mitotic cells. These findings reveal a new insight into the role of phosphorylation in regulating NPM targeting during mitosis. However, caution should be used when using commercially available phospho-MKK1/MKK2 antibodies to examine the regulation of MKK1/MKK2 during mitotic transitions, owing to their cross-reactivity with phosphorylated NPM at this time of the cell cycle.

Abbreviations used: Cdc2, cell division cycle protein-2; Cdk, cyclin-dependent kinase; CIP, calf intestinal phosphatase; DAPI, 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; DMEM, Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium; EGF, epidermal growth factor; ERK, extracellular-signal-regulated kinase; FBS, foetal bovine serum; GST, glutathione S-transferase; HA, haemagglutinin; MAP, mitogen-activated protein; MKK, MAP kinase kinase; NPM, nucleophosmin/B23; TLB, tissue lysis buffer; TMO3, tropomodulin-3; TPM2, tropomyosin-2.

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