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Glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) is a serine/threonine protein kinase that mediates the addition of phosphate molecules on certain serine and threonine amino acids in particular cellular substrates. The phosphorylation of these other proteins by GSK-3 usually inhibits the target protein (as in the case of glycogen synthase and NFAT; the target protein is also called the "substrate"). In mammals GSK-3 is encoded by two known genes GSK-3 alpha and beta.


As mentioned, GSK-3 is known for phosphorylating and thus inactivating glycogen synthase. It has also been implicated in the control of cellular response to damaged DNA. GSK-3's homolog in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is known as Shaggy (Zeste White 3). In Drosophila and the frog Xenopus laevis GSK-3 works in the Wnt signalling pathway to phosphorylate β-catenin. Phosphorylation leads to ubiquitination and degradation by cellular proteases, preventing it from entering the nucleus and activating transcription factors. When a protein called Dishevelled is activated by Wnt signalling, GSK-3 is inactivated, allowing β-catenin to accumulate and effect transcription of Wnt target genes. GSK-3 also phosphorylates Ci in the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway, targeting it for proteolysis to an inactive form.

In addition to glycogen synthase, GSK-3 has many...
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