The GCKIII (germinal centre kinase III) subfamily of the mammalian Ste20 (sterile 20)-like group of serine/threonine protein kinases comprises SOK1 (Ste20-like/oxidant-stress-response kinase 1), MST3 (mammalian Ste20-like kinase 3) and MST4. Initially, GCKIIIs were considered in the contexts of the regulation of mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades and apoptosis. More recently, their participation in multiprotein heterocomplexes has become apparent. In the present review, we discuss the structure and phosphorylation of GCKIIIs and then focus on their interactions with other proteins. GCKIIIs possess a highly-conserved, structured catalytic domain at the N-terminus and a less-well conserved C-terminal regulatory domain. GCKIIIs are activated by tonic autophosphorylation of a T-loop threonine residue and their phosphorylation is regulated primarily through protein serine/threonine phosphatases [especially PP2A (protein phosphatase 2A)]. The GCKIII regulatory domains are highly disorganized, but can interact with more structured proteins, particularly the CCM3 (cerebral cavernous malformation 3)/PDCD10 (programmed cell death 10) protein. We explore the role(s) of GCKIIIs (and CCM3/PDCD10) in STRIPAK (striatin-interacting phosphatase and kinase) complexes and their association with the cis-Golgi protein GOLGA2 (golgin A2; GM130). Recently, an interaction of GCKIIIs with MO25 has been identified. This exhibits similarities to the STRADα (STE20-related kinase adaptor α)–MO25 interaction (as in the LKB1–STRADα–MO25 heterotrimer) and, at least for MST3, the interaction may be enhanced by cis-autophosphorylation of its regulatory domain. In these various heterocomplexes, GCKIIIs associate with the Golgi apparatus, the centrosome and the nucleus, as well as with focal adhesions and cell junctions, and are probably involved in cell migration, polarity and proliferation. Finally, we consider the association of GCKIIIs with a number of human diseases, particularly cerebral cavernous malformations.

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