Sterile 20 (ste20) protein is an upstream ser/thr kinase in yeast, and several mammalian Ste20-like (MST) kinases have been identified. This review focuses on the signal transduction, interacting proteins, and potential biological function of MST1, 2, 3, and 4 kinases, since several novel signal pathways of these kinases have been characterized recently. MST1 and MST2 kinases play an important role in cell growth and apoptosis, and the signal pathways involves many important molecules including RAS, AKT, and FOXO3. MST3 and MST4 have similar kinase domain, but have opposite effects on apoptosis and transformation. The downstream signaling molecules of these two kinases are beginning to be elucidated. Based on the expression pattern and signal pathways, we will discuss the perspective biological functions of four MST family kinases in cancer, immune, cardiovascular, and brain function.
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