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J Neurochem August 1, 2008; 106 (3): 1184-97.

The four mammalian splice variants encoded by the p21-activated kinase 3 gene have different biological properties.

Kreis P , Rousseau V , Thévenot E , Combeau G , Barnier JV .

The p21-activated kinases (PAK1), PAK2, and PAK3 are members of the PAK group I and share high sequence identity and common biochemical properties. PAK3 is specifically implicated in neuronal plasticity and also regulates cell cycle progression, neuronal migration, and apoptosis. Loss of function of PAK3 is responsible for X-linked non-syndromic mental retardation whereas gain of PAK3 function is associated with cancer. To understand the functional specificities of PAK3, we analyzed the structure of PAK3 gene products. We report here the characterization of a new alternatively spliced exon called c located upstream of the previously identified exon b. Exon b is detected in all tetrapods and not in fish, exon c is only present in mammals. Mammalian PAK3 genes encode four splice variants and the corresponding proteins were detected with specific antibodies in brain extracts. All PAK3 transcripts are specifically expressed in brain and in particular in neurons. The presence of the exons b and c renders the kinase constitutively active and decreases interaction with GTPases. The expression of the new splice variants in COS7 cells alters cell morphology and modifies the structure of focal adhesions. We propose that the appearance of new alternatively spliced exons during evolution and the resulting increase of complexity of PAK3 gene products may confer new functions to this kinase and contribute to its specific roles in neuronal signaling.

PubMed ID: 18507705
Article link: J Neurochem

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: arhgef7 cdkn1a nsg1 pak1 pak2 pak3 pkn1 pkn2