Phosphorylation regulates Myc expression via prolonged activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway

Ziqiu Wang, Lisheng Ge, Meifang Wang, Brian I Carr
Journal of Cellular Physiology 2006, 208 (1): 133-40
We previously showed that prolonged and strong ERK phosphorylation induced by Compound 5 (Cpd 5), a Cdc25A protein phosphatase inhibitor, was involved in its mechanism of cell growth inhibition. To study the relationship between ERK phosphorylation and cell growth inhibition, we used Cpd 5 as a tool to investigate ERK-regulated c-Myc expression in Hep3B hepatoma cells. We found that ERK phosphorylation caused by Cpd 5 induced c-Myc phosphorylation, but suppressed c-Myc expression at the mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, Cpd 5 inhibited c-Myc transcriptional activity and DNA binding ability, and this inhibition was antagonized by ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor U-0126, implying that the ERK pathway was involved in regulating c-Myc expression. Since the participation of c-Myc protein in transcription requires its dimerization with Max protein, we examined the Myc-Max association in Cpd 5-treated cells and found that Cpd 5 suppressed Myc-Max dimerization. Transfection of Hep3B cells with mutated ERK (T188A/Y190F), which has lost its dual-phosphorylation sites, attenuated the actions of Cpd 5 on Myc-Max association. To further demonstrate whether Myc phosphorylation by Cpd 5-induced ERK activation was able to directly regulate c-myc gene expression, a chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay was used to examine the binding of phospho-Myc to the c-myc promoter region. We found that phospho-Myc induced by Cpd 5 had lost its ability to bind to the c-myc promoter, whereas MEK inhibitor U-0126 antagonized this inhibitory effect. These data suggest that an increase in c-Myc phosphorylation in response to prolonged ERK phosphorylation negatively auto-regulates c-Myc gene expression, leading to the suppression of its target gene expression and cell cycle block.

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