Identification of cardiac-specific myosin light chain kinase

Jason Y. Chan, Morihiko Takeda, Laura E. Briggs, Megan L. Graham, Jonathan T. Lu, Nobuo Horikoshi, Ellen O. Weinberg, Hiroki Aoki, Naruki Sato, Kenneth R. Chien, Hideko Kasahara*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Two myosin light chain (MLC) kinase (MLCK) proteins, smooth muscle (encoded by mylk1 gene) and skeletal (encoded by mylk2 gene) MLCK, have been shown to be expressed in mammals. Even though phosphorylation of its putative substrate, MLC2, is recognized as a key regulator of cardiac contraction, a MLCK that is preferentially expressed in cardiac muscle has not yet been identified. In this study, we characterized a new kinase encoded by a gene homologous to mylk1 and -2, named cardiac MLCK, which is specifically expressed in the heart in both atrium and ventricle. In fact, expression of cardiac MLCK is highly regulated by the cardiac homeobox protein Nkx2-5 in neonatal cardiomyocytes. The overall structure of cardiac MLCK protein is conserved with skeletal and smooth muscle MLCK; however, the amino terminus is quite unique, without significant homology to other known proteins, and its catalytic activity does not appear to be regulated by Ca/calmodulin in vitro. Cardiac MLCK is phosphorylated and the level of phosphorylation is increased by phenylephrine stimulation accompanied by increased level of MLC2v phosphorylation. Both overexpression and knockdown of cardiac MLCK in cultured cardiomyocytes revealed that cardiac MLCK is likely a new regulator of MLC2 phosphorylation, sarcomere organization, and cardiomyocyte contraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-580
Number of pages10
JournalCirculation research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Contraction
  • Kinase
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology


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