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Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase kinase 3 (EC (Germinal center kinase-related protein kinase) (GLK) (MAPK/ERK kinase kinase kinase 3) (MEK kinase kinase 3) (MEKKK 3) [RAB8IPL1]


MAP4K3/GLK in autoimmune disease, cancer and aging.

MAP4K3 (also named GLK) is a serine/threonine kinase, which belongs to the mammalian Ste20-like kinase family. At 22 years of age, GLK was initially cloned and identified as an upstream activator of the MAPK JNK under an environmental stress and proinflammatory cytokines. The data derived from GLK-overexpressing or shRNA-knockdown cell lines suggest that GLK may be involved in cell proliferation through mTOR signaling. GLK phosphorylates the transcription factor TFEB and retains TFEB in the cytoplasm, leading to inhibition of cell autophagy. After generating and characterizing GLK-deficient mice, the important in vivo roles of GLK in T-cell activation were revealed. In T cells, GLK directly interacts with and activates PKCθ through phosphorylating PKCθ at Ser-538 residue, leading to activation of IKK/NF-κB. Thus, GLK-deficient mice display impaired T-cell-mediated immune responses and decreased inflammatory phenotypes in autoimmune disease models. Consistently, the percentage of GLK-overexpressing T cells is increased in the peripheral blood from autoimmune disease patients; the GLK-overexpressing T cell population is correlated with disease severity of patients. The pathogenic mechanism of autoimmune disease by GLK overexpression was unraveled by characterizing T-cell-specific GLK transgenic mice and using biochemical analyses. GLK overexpression selectively promotes IL-17A transcription by inducing the AhR-RORγt complex in T cells. In addition, GLK overexpression in cancer tissues is correlated with cancer recurrence of human lung cancer and liver cancer; the predictive power of GLK overexpression for cancer recurrence is higher than that of pathologic stage. GLK directly phosphorylates and activates IQGAP1, resulting in induction of Cdc42-mediated cell migration and cancer metastasis. Furthermore, treatment of GLK inhibitor reduces disease severity of mouse autoimmune disease models and decreases IL-17A production of human autoimmune T cells. Due to the inhibitory function of HPK1/MAP4K1 in T-cell activation and the promoting effects of GLK on tumorigenesis, HPK1 and GLK dual inhibitors could be useful therapeutic drugs for cancer immunotherapy. In addition, GLK deficiency results in extension of lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans and mice. Taken together, targeting MAP4K3 (GLK) may be useful for treating/preventing autoimmune disease, cancer metastasis/recurrence, and aging.

MeSH Terms

  • Aging
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Aging
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Autophagy
  • Cancer metastasis
  • HPK1
  • IL-17A
  • IQGAP1
  • MAP4K3 (GLK)
  • PKCθ
  • Verteporfin