Localization and activity of myosin light chain kinase isoforms during the cell cycle

Angela Poperechnaya, Olga Varlamova, Pei Ju Lin, James T. Stull, Anne R. Bresnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Phosphorylation on Ser 19 of the myosin II regulatory light chain by myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) regulates actomyosin contractility in smooth muscle and vertebrate nonmuscle cells. The smooth/nonmuscle MLCK gene locus produces two kinases, a high molecular weight isoform (long MLCK) and a low molecular weight isoform (short MLCK), that are differentially expressed in smooth and nonmuscle tissues. To study the relative localization of the MLCK isoforms in cultured nonmuscle cells and to determine the spatial and temporal dynamics of MLCK localization during mitosis, we constructed green fluorescent protein fusions of the long and short MLCKs. In interphase cells, localization of the long MLCK to stress fibers is mediated by five DXRXXL motifs, which span the junction of the NH2-terminal extension and the short MLCK. In contrast, localization of the long MLCK to the cleavage furrow in dividing cells requires the five DXRXXL motifs as well as additional amino acid sequences present in the NH2-terminal extension. Thus, it appears that nonmuscle cells utilize different mechanisms for targeting the long MLCK to actomyosin structures during interphase and mitosis. Further studies have shown that the long MLCK has twofold lower kinase activity in early mitosis than in interphase or in the early stages of postmitotic spreading. These findings suggest a model in which MLCK and the myosin II phosphatase (Totsukawa, G., Y. Yamakita, S. Yamashiro, H. Hosoya, D.J. Hartshorne, and F. Matsumura. 1999. J. Cell Biol. 144:735-744) act cooperatively to regulate the level of Ser 19-phosphorylated myosin II during mitosis and initiate cytokinesis through the activation of myosin II motor activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-707
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 30 2000


  • Cell division
  • Cytokinesis
  • Myosin
  • Myosin light chain kinase
  • Phosphorylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Localization and activity of myosin light chain kinase isoforms during the cell cycle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this