Date of Award

Summer 8-10-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Zhi-Ren Liu

Second Advisor

Jenny Jie Yang

Third Advisor

Shi-Yong Sun

Fourth Advisor

Ritu Aneja


P68 RNA helicase (p68), as a DEAD family protein, is a typical RNA helicase protein. P68 functions in many other biological processes, which include the regulations of the gene transcription, cell proliferation and cell differentiation. In our group, Y593 phosphorylated p68 was found to have a function in the epithelial mesynchymal transition, which is an important process for cancer metastasis. In the present study, we found that p68 is a nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein. The protein carries two functional nuclear exporting signal sequences and two nuclear localization signal sequences. Calmodulin, a calcium sensor protein, is well known to play roles in cell migration by regulating the activities of its target proteins at the leading edge. Calmodulin interacts with p68 at the IQ motif of p68. However, the biological function of this interaction is not known. In this study, we found that the p68/calmodulin protein complex functions as a microtubule motor in migrating cells. The shuttling function of p68 along with the motor function of p68/calmodulin causes the leading edge distribution of calmodulin in migrating cells. Disruption the interaction between p68 and calmodulin inhibits cancer cell metastasis in an established mouse model. On the other hand, Y593-Y595 double phosphorylated p68 were found to interact with PKM2, an important tumor isoform of pyruvate kinase. The shuttling function of p68 is reasoned to promote the dimer formation of PKM2 and transport the PKM2 to the cell nucleus. The nuclear PKM2 was found to function as a protein kinase to promote cell proliferation. In specific, the nuclear PKM2 phosphorylates and activates Stat3, an important transcription factor functions in cell proliferation. Overall, p68 is found to have functions in both cell migration and cell proliferation, and these two functions depend on the nucleocytoplasmic shuttling activity and the post-translational modification of p68.