Kinase vs Phosphatase: A Comparison

In this article, we will look at the differences between kinase and phosphatase. Both kinase and phosphatase are two enzymes which are involved in numerous cellular activities. Today, we will get to know both of them and we will compare their roles in the cellular processes.
Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Neuroscientist at the University Of Cambridge.

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Differences Between Kinase and Phosphatase

Kinase and phosphatase are both enzymes that play crucial roles in cellular activities. The primary difference lies in their functions: Kinase adds a phosphate group to proteins, a process known as phosphorylation, while phosphatase removes these phosphate groups, a process called dephosphorylation. This fundamental difference in function leads to varied roles in cellular processes such as signal transduction and cell cycle regulation.

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What Is A Kinase?

A kinase is a type of enzyme that is involved in multiple cellular processes. In particular, it facilitates the transfer of phosphates to other molecules.

Interestingly, the human genome encodes approximately 538 kinases [1]. They are all activated within a protein kinase cascade which requires at least three kinases acting in series together [2].

Kinases may influence metabolic reactions such as cell signaling, secretory processes, and even the transport of molecules or differentiation [3, 1].

For instance, they are involved in the phosphorylation of targeted molecules and can affect their ability to react with other molecules [3]. This process involves the transfer of a phosphate group from ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to a protein, which may result in the modification of the protein [1].

But apart from this, kinases can modify proteins in various ways. For example, the phosphorylation of proteins can both increase or decrease the activity of an enzyme and ultimately alter other biological activities including transcription and translation [4].

Dysregulation or mutations of protein kinases have been linked to various diseases including cancer. Because of that, protein kinases have been the most important drug targets over the past two decades [4].

What Is A Phosphatase?

Phosphatase is a type of enzyme that is responsible for the removal of a phosphate group from a molecule.

This process is known as dephosphorylation and is essential in many cellular processes such as signal transduction, protein activation, and cell division [5].

However, phosphatases can be subcategorized into different classes. This classification is usually based on their substrate specificity and biochemical properties.

For example, phytases are a special type of phosphatases that catalyze the hydrolysis of phytate to less phosphorylated derivatives. These are usually added to animal feed to reduce phosphate pollution because some animals can’t metabolise phytate [6].

Furthermore, phosphotriesterase is another class of phosphatase which is involved in the detoxification of organophosphates (a class of highly toxic synthetic compounds) [7].

This was just a few examples of the diverse functions these enzymes have. They play a critical role in various biological processes including cellular communication, detoxification, and even RNA degradation.

What Are The Differences Between Kinase And Phosphatase?

Kinases and phosphatases are both enzymes that are involved in the regulation of metabolic processes. They have similarities but also differences, so let’s consider both:

The similarities between these two types of enzymes are that they both work by adding or removing phosphate groups from proteins, by which they can alter the activity of the targeted proteins.

However, what is quite intriguing is that their mechanism of action is different. In particular, let's look at phosphorylation: a phosphorylase kinase is a type of kinase that catalyzes the transfer of phosphate groups from high-energy phosphate-donating molecules to specific substrates. This results in a functional change of the target protein by changing enzyme activity, cellular location, or its association with other proteins [8, 9].

On the other hand, phosphatases are enzymes that can remove a phosphate group from its substrate through a process called dephosphorylation. For example, alpha-phosphorylase kinase phosphatase and beta-phosphorylase kinase phosphatase are two distinct enzymes that can dephosphorylate the alpha and beta subunits of phosphorylase kinase, respectively [10].

A key difference between kinases and phosphatases is their substrate specificity. While kinases react with specific primary structures, phosphatases use the amino acid sequence surrounding the phosphorylated site to recognize the structure [8, 9].

However, it is important to note that kinases and phosphatases work closely together to modulate the activities and functionality of proteins.

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Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Frederika is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she investigates new biomarkers for Frontotemporal Dementia and other tauopathies. Her research has been published at prestigious conferences such as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2023. She obtained her BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL, where she worked closely with the UK Dementia Research Institute.