The acronym CK2 (derived from the misnomer ‘casein kinase’ 2) denotes one of the most pleiotropic members of the eukaryotic protein kinase superfamily, characterized by an acidic consensus sequence in which a carboxylic acid (or pre-phosphorylated) side chain at position n+3 relative to the target serine/threonine residue plays a crucial role. The latest repertoire of CK2 substrates includes approx. 300 proteins, but the analysis of available phosphopeptide databases from different sources suggests that CK2 alone may be responsible for the generation of a much larger proportion (10–20%) of the eukaryotic phosphoproteome. Although for the time being CK2 is not included among protein kinases whose inhibitors are in clinical practice or in advanced clinical trials, evidence is accumulating that elevated CK2 constitutive activity co-operates to induce a number of pathological conditions, including cancer, infectious diseases, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular pathologies. The development and usage of cell-permeant, selective inhibitors discloses a scenario whereby CK2 plays a global anti-apoptotic role, which under special circumstances may lead to untimely and pathogenic cell survival.

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