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Open Access Commentary

Gauchos and ochos: a Wee1-Cdk tango regulating mitotic entry

Greg H Enders

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine, Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA

Epigenetics and Progenitor Cell Keystone Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA

Cell Division 2010, 5:12  doi:10.1186/1747-1028-5-12

Published: 13 May 2010

Abstract

The kinase Wee1 has been recognized for a quarter century as a key inhibitor of Cyclin dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1) and mitotic entry in eukaryotes. Nonetheless, Wee1 regulation is not well understood and its large amino-terminal regulatory domain (NRD) has remained largely uncharted. Evidence has accumulated that cyclin B/Cdk1 complexes reciprocally inhibit Wee1 activity through NRD phosphorylation. Recent studies have identified the first functional NRD elements and suggested that vertebrate cyclin A/Cdk2 complexes also phosphorylate the NRD. A short NRD peptide, termed the Wee box, augments the activity of the Wee1 kinase domain. Cdk1/2-mediated phosphorylation of the Wee box (on T239) antagonizes kinase activity. A nearby region harbors a conserved RxL motif (RxL1) that promotes cyclin A/Cdk2 binding and T239 phosphorylation. Mutation of either T239 or RxL1 bolsters the ability of Wee1 to block mitotic entry, consistent with negative regulation of Wee1 through these sites. The region in human somatic Wee1 that encompasses RxL1 also binds Crm1, directing Wee1 export from the nucleus. These studies have illuminated important aspects of Wee1 regulation and defined a specific molecular pathway through which cyclin A/Cdk2 complexes foster mitotic entry. The complexity, speed, and importance of regulation of mitotic entry suggest that there is more to be learned.