Potential Roles for Autophosphorylation, Kinase Activity, and Abundance of a CDK-Activating Kinase (Ee;CDKF;1) During Growth in Leafy Spurge

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Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) is a deep-rooted perennial weed that propagates both by seeds and underground adventitious buds located on the crown and roots. To enhance our understanding of growth and development during seed germination and vegetative propagation, a leafy spurge gene (Accession No. AF230740) encoding a CDK-activating kinase (Ee;CDKF;1) involved in cell-cycle progression was identified, and its function was confirmed based on its ability to rescue a yeast temperature-sensitive CAK mutant (GF2351) and through in vitro kinase assays. Site-directed mutagenesis of Ee;CDKF;1 indicated that two threonine residues (Thr291 and Thr296) were mutually responsible for intra-molecular autophosphorylation and for phosphorylating its substrate protein, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK). Polyclonal antibodies generated against the Ee;CDKF;1 protein or against a phosphorylated Ee;CDKF;1 peptide [NERYGSL(pT)SC] were used to examine abundance and phosphorylation of CDKF;1 during seed germination and bud growth. The levels of CDKF;1 were lower in dry or imbibed seeds than in germinating seeds or seedlings. Differences in CDKF;1 were also observed during adventitious bud development; small buds appeared to have greater levels of CDKF;1 than large buds. Similar patterns of CDKF;1 expression were detected with either the polyclonal antibody developed using the CDKF;1 protein or the phosphorylated peptide. These results indicated that Thr291 is constitutively phosphorylated in vivo and associated with Ee;CDKF;1 activity. Our results further suggest that a certain level of CDKF;1 activity is maintained in most tissues and may be an important phenomenon for enzymes that regulate early steps in cell-cycle signaling pathways.