Some signal transduction pathways regulate the transcription of RNA. Others regulate the translation of proteins from mRNA. An example of a protein that regulates translation in the nucleus is the MAP kinase ERK. The MAPK/ERK pathway (also known as the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway) is a chain of proteins in the cell that communicates a signal from a receptor on the surface of the cell to the nuclear DNA. ERK is activated in a phosphorylation cascade when epidermal growth factor (EGF) binds the EGF receptor (see ). Upon phosphorylation, ERK enters the nucleus and activates a protein kinase that, in turn, regulates protein translation (Figure).
Another mechanism of gene regulation involves PKC, which can interact with is a protein that acts as an inhibitor. An inhibitor is a molecule that binds to a protein and prevents it from functioning or reduces its function. In this case, the inhibitor is a protein called Iκ-B, which binds to the regulatory protein NF-κB. (The symbol κ represents the Greek letter kappa.) When Iκ-B is bound to NF-κB, the complex cannot enter the nucleus of the cell, but when Iκ-B is phosphorylated by PKC, it can no longer bind NF-κB, and NF-κB (a transcription factor) can enter the nucleus and initiate RNA transcription. In this case, the effect of phosphorylation is to inactivate an inhibitor and thereby activate the process of transcription.