We have cloned a novel human GCK family kinase that has been designated as MASK (Mst3 and SOK1-related kinase). MASK is widely expressed and encodes a protein of 416 amino acid residues, with an N-terminal kinase domain and a unique C-terminal region. Like other GCK-III subfamily kinases, MASK not activate any mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. Wild type MASK, but not a form lacking the C terminus, exhibits homophilic binding in the yeast two-hybrid system and in coimmunoprecipitation experiments. Additionally, deletion of this C-terminal region of MASK leads to an increased kinase activity toward itself as well as toward an exogenous substrate, myelin basic protein. A potential caspase 3 cleavage site (DESDS) is present in the C-terminal region of MASK, and we show that MASK is cleaved in vitro by caspase 3. Finally, wild type and C-terminally truncated forms of MASK can both induce apoptosis upon overexpression in mammalian cells that is abrogated by CrmA, suggesting involvement of MASK in the apoptotic machinery in mammalian cells.
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