The plant-specific kinase CDKF;1 is involved in activating phosphorylation of cyclin-dependent kinase-activating kinases in Arabidopsis.
Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) play essential roles in coordinate control of cell cycle progression. Activation of CDKs requires interaction with specific cyclin partners and phosphorylation of their T-loops by CDK-activating kinases (CAKs). The Arabidopsis thaliana genome encodes four potential CAKs. CAK2At (CDKD;3) and CAK4At (CDKD;2) are closely related to the vertebrate CAK, CDK7/p40MO15; they interact with cyclin H and phosphorylate CDKs, as well as the C-terminal domain (CTD) of the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II. CAK1At (CDKF;1) shows cyclin H-independent CDK-kinase activity and can activate a heterologous CAK, Mcs6, in fission yeast. In Arabidopsis, CAK1At is a subunit of a protein complex of 130 kD, which phosphorylates the T-loop of CAK2At and CAK4At and activates the CTD-kinase activity of CAK4At in vitro and in root protoplasts. These results suggest that CAK1At is a novel CAK-activating kinase that modulates the activity of CAK2At and CAK4At, thereby controlling CDK activities and basal transcription in Arabidopsis.