Over the past 20 years, the Ste20-like kinase (SLK; also known as STK2) has emerged as a central regulator of cytoskeletal dynamics. Reorganization of the cytoskeleton is necessary for a plethora of biological processes including apoptosis, proliferation, migration, tissue repair and signaling. Several studies have also uncovered a role for SLK in disease progression and cancer. Here, we review the recent findings in the SLK field and summarize the various roles of SLK in different animal models and discuss the biochemical mechanisms regulating SLK activity. Together, these studies have revealed multiple roles for SLK in coupling cytoskeletal dynamics to cell growth, in muscle repair and in negative-feedback loops critical for cancer progression. Furthermore, the ability of SLK to regulate some systems appears to be kinase activity independent, suggesting that it may be an important scaffold for signal transduction pathways. These various findings reveal highly complex functions and regulation patterns of SLK in development and disease, making it a potential therapeutic target.

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