The bacterial pathogen Yersinia uses a type III secretion system to inject several virulence factors into target cells. One of the Yersinia virulence factors, YopJ, was shown to bind directly to the superfamily of MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) kinases (MKKs) blocking both phosphorylation and subsequent activation of the MKKs. These results explain the diverse activities of YopJ in inhibiting the extracellular signal- regulated kinase, c-Jun amino-terminal kinase, p38, and nuclear factor kappa B signaling pathways, preventing cytokine synthesis and promoting apoptosis. YopJ-related proteins that are found in a number of bacterial pathogens of animals and plants may function to block MKKs so that host signaling responses can be modulated upon infection.
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