Amy Peterson

Graduate Student

The classic network of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) is highly interconnected and controls a diverse array of biological processes. In multicellular eukaryotes, the MAPKs ERK, JNK, and p38 control opposing cell behaviors but are often activated simultaneously, raising questions about how input-output specificity is achieved. Here, we use multiplexed MAPK activity biosensors to investigate how cell fate control emerges from the connectivity and dynamics of the MAPK network. Through chemical and genetic perturbation, we systematically explore the outputs and functions of all the MAP3 kinases encoded in the human genome and show that MAP3Ks control cell fate by triggering unique combinations of MAPK activity. We show that these MAPK activity combinations explain the paradoxical dual role of JNK signaling as proapoptotic or pro-proliferative kinase. Overall, our integrative analysis indicates that the MAPK network operates as a unit to control cell fate and shifts the focus from MAPKs to MAP3Ks to better understand signaling-mediated control of cell fate.