The Ras → Raf → MEK1/2 → extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway couples mitogenic signals to cell proliferation. B-Raf and Raf-1 function within an oligomer wherein they are regulated in part by mutual transactivation. The MAPK kinase kinase (MAP3K) mixed-lineage kinase 3 (MLK3) is required for mitogen activation of B-Raf and cell proliferation. Here we show that the kinase activity of MLK3 is not required for support of B-Raf activation. Instead, MLK3 is a component of the B-Raf Raf-1 complex and is required for maintenance of the integrity of this complex. We show that the activation of ERK and the proliferation of human schwannoma cells bearing a loss-of-function mutation in the neurofibromatosis2 (NF2) gene require MLK3. We find that merlin, the product of NF2, blunts the activation of both ERK and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Finally, we demonstrate that merlin and MLK3 can interact in situ and that merlin can disrupt the interactions between B-Raf and Raf-1 or those between MLK3 and either B-Raf or Raf-1. Thus, MLK3 is part of a multiprotein complex and is required for ERK activation. The levels of this complex may be negatively regulated by merlin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4463-4468
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 21 2006


  • Extracellular signal-regulated kinase
  • Mitogen-activated protein kinase/merlin


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