As with other groups of protein kinases, approximately 10% of the RTKs (receptor tyrosine kinases) in the human proteome contain intracellular pseudokinases that lack one or more conserved catalytically important residues. These include ErbB3, a member of the EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) family, and a series of unconventional Wnt receptors. We showed previously that, despite its reputation as a pseudokinase, the ErbB3 TKD (tyrosine kinase domain) does retain significant, albeit weak, kinase activity. This led us to suggest that a subgroup of RTKs may be able to signal even with very inefficient kinases. Recent work suggests that this is not the case, however. Other pseudokinase RTKs have not revealed significant kinase activity, and mutations that impair ErbB3′s weak kinase activity have not so far been found to exhibit signalling defects. These findings therefore point to models in which the TKDs of pseudokinase RTKs participate in receptor signalling by allosterically regulating associated kinases (such as ErbB3 regulation of ErbB2) and/or function as regulated ‘scaffolds’ for other intermolecular interactions central to signal propagation. Further structural and functional studies, particularly of the pseudokinase RTKs involved in Wnt signalling, are required to shed new light on these intriguing signalling mechanisms.

You do not currently have access to this content.