Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) are serine-threonine protein kinases that are activated by diverse stimuli ranging from cytokines, growth factors, neurotransmitters, hormones, cellular stress, and cell adherence. Mitogen-activated protein kinases are expressed in all eukaryotic cells. The basic assembly of MAPK pathways is a three-component module conserved from yeast to humans. The MAPK module includes three kinases that establish a sequential activation pathway comprising a MAPK kinase kinase (MKKK), MAPK kinase (MKK), and MAPK. Currently, there have been 14 MKKK, 7 MKK, and 12 MAPK identified in mammalian cells. The mammalian MAPK can be subdivided into five families: MAPKerk1/2, MAPKp38, MAPKjnk, MAPKerk3/4, and MAPKerk5. Each MAPK family has distinct biological functions. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, there are five MAPK pathways involved in mating, cell wall remodelling, nutrient deprivation, and responses to stress stimuli such as osmolarity changes. Component members of the yeast pathways have conserved counterparts in mammalian cells. The number of different MKKK in MAPK modules allows for the diversity of inputs capable of activating MAPK pathways. In this review, we define all known MAPK module kinases from yeast to humans, what is known about their regulation, defined MAPK substrates, and the function of MAPK in cell physiology.
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