Advances in genetic code expansion have enabled the production of proteins containing site-specific, authentic post-translational modifications. Here, we use a recoded bacterial strain with an expanded genetic code to encode phosphoserine into a human kinase protein. We directly encode phosphoserine into WNK1 (with-no-lysine [K] 1) or WNK4 kinases at multiple, distinct sites, which produced activated, phosphorylated WNK that phosphorylated and activated SPAK/OSR kinases, thereby synthetically activating this human kinase network in recoded bacteria. We used this approach to identify biochemical properties of WNK kinases, a motif for SPAK substrates, and small-molecule kinase inhibitors for phosphorylated SPAK. We show that the kinase inhibitors modulate SPAK substrates in cells, alter cell volume, and reduce migration of glioblastoma cells. Our work establishes a protein-engineering platform technology that demonstrates that synthetically active WNK kinase networks can accurately model cellular systems and can be used more broadly to target networks of phosphorylated proteins for research and discovery.
- glioblastoma cell migration
- small-molecule kinase inhibitor
- synthetic biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)