STE20/SPS1-related proline/alanine-rich kinase (SPAK) and Oxidative Stress Responsive 1 (OSR1) kinase are two serine/threonine protein kinase that regulate the function of ion co-transporters through phosphorylation. The highly conserved C-terminal (CCT) domains of SPAK and OSR1 bind to RFx[V/I] peptide sequences from their upstream With No Lysine Kinases (WNKs), facilitating their activation via phosphorylation. Thus, the inhibition of SPAK and OSR1 binding, via their CCT domains, to WNK kinases is a plausible strategy for inhibiting SPAK and OSR1 kinases. To facilitate structure-guided drug design of such inhibitors, we expressed and purified human SPAK and OSR1 CCT domains and solved their crystal structures. We also employed a biophysical strategy and determined the affinity of SPAK and OSR1 CCT domains to an 18-mer peptide derived from WNK4. Together, the crystal structures and affinity data reported herein provide a robust platform to facilitate the design of CCT domain specific small molecule inhibitors of SPAK-activation by WNK kinases, potentially leading to new improved treatments for hypertension and ischemic stroke.
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