NIMA protein kinase is a major regulator of progression into mitosis in Aspergillus nidulans. Dominant negative forms of NIMA protein prevent entrance into mitosis in HeLa cells, suggesting that mammals have a similar pathway. We have reported previously the isolation of a murine NIMA-related kinase, designated Nek1, and more recently several additional NIMA-related human kinases have been cloned. The existence of several mammalian NIMA-related genes raises the questions of whether the different mammalian members have redundant, overlapping or distinct functions, and whether these functions are related to the role of NIMA in controlling mitosis. To address these questions we have studied the expression patterns of the different murine nek genes. To this end, we isolated a murine nek2 cDNA and compared its patterns of expression, during both gametogenesis and embryogenesis, to those of nek1. Both genes were highly expressed in developing germ cells, albeit in distinct patterns. In both females and males, nek1 is expressed much earlier than nek2, suggesting only limited ability for functional redundancy. Surprisingly, a striking specificity of nek1 expression was found: high levels of nek1 RNA were observed in distinct regions of the nervous system, most notably in neurons of the peripheral ganglia. These patterns suggest that the different mammalian NIMA-related kinases participate in different phases of the meiotic process and may also have functions other than cell cycle control.
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We gratefully acknowledge the expert advice from Jeremy Don on staging the testicullar tubules. We also thank Ron Wides and Don Katcoff for critical reading of the manuscript, and Uri Nir for providing testis cDNA libraries. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation founded by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities-Center of Excellence Program. BM is an Israel Cancer Research Fund fellow.
- Nervous system
- Protein kinase