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Keywords:

  • Trib protein family;
  • pseudokinase;
  • development

Abstract

The gene tribbles (trbl), identified 12 years ago in genetic screens for mutations that control both cell division and cell migration during embryonic Drosophila development, is the founding member of the Tribbles (Trib) family of kinase-like proteins that have diverse roles in cell signaling, tissue homeostasis, and cancer. Trib proteins share three motifs: (1) a divergent kinase region (Trib domain) with undetermined catalytic activity, (2) a COP1 site used to direct key target proteins to the proteosome for degradation, and (3) a MEK1 site that binds and modulates MAPKK kinase activity. The notion that Tribs act as scaffolding proteins to balance signaling levels in multiple pathways retains an attractive simplicity, but given recent data showing that divergent kinases act by means of novel catalytic mechanisms, the enzymatic activity of Tribs remains untested. Here, we focus on the role of Tribs during development. Developmental analysis of Drosophila trbl phenotypes reveals tissue-specific, sometimes contradictory roles. In mammals, multiple Trib isoforms exhibit overlapping and tissue-specific functions. Recent data indicate the mechanism of Trib activity is conserved and requires the Trib domain. Finally, we discuss the connections between Tribs in disease and cancer that have implications for their normal roles during organogenesis. Developmental Dynamics 241:1239–1248, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.