Increasing kinase domain proximity promotes MST2 autophosphorylation during hippo signaling

Thao Tran, Jaba Mitra, Taekjip Ha, Jennifer M. Kavran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Hippo pathway plays an important role in developmental biology, mediating organ size by controlling cell proliferation through the activity of a core kinase cassette. Multiple upstream events activate the pathway, but how each controls this core kinase cassette is not fully understood. Activation of the core kinase cassette begins with phosphorylation of the kinase MST1/2 (also known as STK3/4). Here, using a combination of in vitro biochemistry and cell-based assays, including chemically induced dimerization and single-molecule pulldown, we revealed that increasing the proximity of adjacent kinase domains, rather than formation of a specific protein assembly, is sufficient to trigger autophosphorylation. We validate this mechanism in cells and demonstrate that multiple events associated with the active pathway, including SARAH domain–mediated homodimerization, membrane recruitment, and complex formation with the effector protein SAV1, each increase the kinase domain proximity and autophosphorylation of MST2. Together, our results reveal that multiple and distinct upstream signals each utilize the same common molecular mechanism to stimulate MST2 autophosphorylation. This mechanism is likely conserved among MST2 homologs. Our work also highlights potential differences in Hippo signal propagation between each activating event owing to differences in the dynamics and regulation of each protein ensemble that triggers MST2 autophosphorylation and possible redundancy in activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16166-16179
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 20 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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