Comparison of MAPK specificity across the ETS transcription factor family identifies a high-affinity ERK interaction required for ERG function in prostate cells

Nagarathinam Selvaraj, Vivekananda Kedage, Peter C. Hollenhorst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Background: The RAS/MAPK signaling pathway can regulate gene expression by phosphorylating and altering the function of some, but not all, ETS transcription factors. ETS family transcription factors bind similar DNA sequences and can compete for genomic binding sites. However, MAPK regulation varies across the ETS family. Therefore, changing the ETS factor bound to a cis-regulatory element can alter MAPK regulation of gene expression. To understand RAS/MAPK regulated gene expression programs, comprehensive knowledge of the ETS family members that are MAPK targets and relative MAPK targeting efficiency across the family is needed. Results: An in vitro kinase assay was used to rank-order 27 human ETS family transcription factors based on phosphorylation by ERK2, JNK1, and p38α. Many novel MAPK targets and specificities were identified within the ETS family, including the identification of the prostate cancer oncoprotein ERG as a specific target of ERK2. ERK2 phosphorylation of ERG S215 required a DEF docking domain and was necessary for ERG to activate transcription of cell migration genes and promote prostate cell migration. The ability of ERK2 to bind ERG with higher affinity than ETS1 provided a potential molecular explanation for why ERG overexpression drives migration of prostate cells with low levels of RAS/ERK signaling, while ETS1 has a similar function only when RAS/ERK signaling is high. Conclusions: The rank ordering of ETS transcription factors as MAPK targets provides an important resource for understanding ETS proteins as mediators of MAPK signaling. This is emphasized by the difference in rank order of ERG and ETS1, which allows these factors to have distinct roles based on the level of RAS/ERK signaling present in the cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalCell Communication and Signaling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015



  • Cell migration
  • ERG
  • ERK
  • ETS transcription factors
  • JNK
  • Mitogen activated protein kinase
  • P38
  • Prostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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