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Mol Cell Biol. 2003 Sep;23(18):6597-608.

Megakaryoblastic leukemia 1, a potent transcriptional coactivator for serum response factor (SRF), is required for serum induction of SRF target genes.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, 1212 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA.


Megakaryoblastic leukemia 1 (MKL1) is a myocardin-related transcription factor that we found strongly activated serum response element (SRE)-dependent reporter genes through its direct binding to serum response factor (SRF). The c-fos SRE is regulated by mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation of ternary complex factor (TCF) but is also regulated by a RhoA-dependent pathway. The mechanism of this pathway is unclear. Since MKL1 (also known as MAL, BSAC, and MRTF-A) is broadly expressed, we assessed its role in serum induction of c-fos and other SRE-regulated genes with a dominant negative MKL1 mutant (DN-MKL1) and RNA interference (RNAi). We found that DN-MKL1 and RNAi specifically blocked SRE-dependent reporter gene activation by serum and RhoA. Complete inhibition by RNAi required the additional inhibition of the related factor MKL2 (MRTF-B), showing the redundancy of these factors. DN-MKL1 reduced the late stage of serum induction of endogenous c-fos expression, suggesting that the TCF- and RhoA-dependent pathways contribute to temporally distinct phases of c-fos expression. Furthermore, serum induction of two TCF-independent SRE target genes, SRF and vinculin, was nearly completely blocked by DN-MKL1. Finally, the RBM15-MKL1 fusion protein formed by the t(1;22) translocation of acute megakaryoblastic leukemia had a markedly increased ability to activate SRE reporter genes, suggesting that its activation of SRF target genes may contribute to leukemogenesis.

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