The PIM1 serine/threonine protein kinase mediates growth factor and survival signalling, and cooperates potently with c-MYC during tumorigenesis. PIM1 is overexpressed in many human cancers and is a promising target for drug development. PIM1 levels are regulated mainly through cytokine-induced transcription and protein degradation, but mechanisms regulating its activity and levels remain largely unexplored. Here, we show that PIM1 is modified in vitro and in cultured cells by the Small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) on two independent sites: K169, within a consensus SUMOylation motif (IK169DE171) in the active site of PIM1, and also at a second promiscuous site. Alanine substitution of E171 (within the consensus motif) abolished SUMOylation, significantly increased the half-life of PIM1, and markedly reduced its ubiquitylation. Mechanistically, SUMOylation promoted ubiquitin-mediated degradation of PIM1 via recruitment of the SUMO-targeted ubiquitin ligase, RNF4. Additionally, SUMOylated PIM1 showed enhanced protein kinase activity in vitro. Interestingly, the E171A mutant was active in vitro but displayed altered substrate specificity in cultured cells, consistent with the idea that SUMOylation may govern PIM1 substrate specificity under certain contexts. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the protein kinase activity and levels of PIM1 can be regulated by covalent post-translational modification.
- Protein kinase
- Post-translational modification