Mitotic MELK-eIF4B signaling controls protein synthesis and tumor cell survival
Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
The protein kinase maternal and embryonic leucine zipper kinase (MELK) is critical for mitotic progression of cancer cells; however, its mechanisms of action remain largely unknown. By combined approaches of immunoprecipitation/mass spectrometry and peptide library profiling, we identified the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4B (eIF4B) as a MELK-interacting protein during mitosis and a bona fide substrate of MELK. MELK phosphorylates eIF4B at Ser406, a modification found to be most robust in the mitotic phase of the cell cycle. We further show that the MELK-eIF4B signaling axis regulates protein synthesis during mitosis. Specifically, synthesis of myeloid cell leukemia 1 (MCL1), an antiapoptotic protein known to play a role in cancer cell survival during cell division, depends on the function of MELK-elF4B. Inactivation of MELK or eIF4B results in reduced protein synthesis of MCL1, which, in turn, induces apoptotic cell death of cancer cells. Our study thus defines a MELK-eIF4B signaling axis that regulates protein synthesis during mitosis, and consequently influences cancer cell survival.