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J Biol Chem. 2005 May 27;280(21):20867-78. Epub 2005 Mar 2.

c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) positively regulates NFATc2 transactivation through phosphorylation within the N-terminal regulatory domain.

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Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), Ronda de Poniente 5, Tres Cantos, Madrid 28760, Spain.


The nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) family of transcription factors regulates the transcription of cytokine genes and other genes involved in the regulation and function of the immune system. NFAT activity is regulated by the phosphatase calcineurin, which binds and dephosphorylates the NFAT N-terminal regulatory domain, a critical step required for nuclear translocation and transcriptional activity. Here we show that the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) JNK activates NFATc2-dependent transcription. Mass spectrometry revealed that JNK phosphorylates at least six residues within the NFATc2 regulatory domain in vitro. Transfection of cells with a chimeric construct encoding the GAL-4 DNA binding domain linked to wild-type NFATc2 showed that JNK stimulates the NFATc2 transactivation domain in activated Jurkat T lymphocytes, an effect that is inhibited by dominant-negative versions of JNK. Likewise, the mutation of the phosphorylation sites identified revealed that Thr(116) and Ser(170) are critical for the transactivation of NFATc2 by JNK. In addition, clustered mutation of the SP-conserved motifs of NFATc2 showed that SP1 and SP2, but not SP3, are also important for the inducible transactivation of NFATc2. Furthermore, mass spectrometry analysis of NFATc2-transfected cells indicated that the activation of the JNK pathway results in the in vivo phosphorylation of Thr(116). Our results indicate that, unlike other NFAT members, the transcriptional activity of NFATc2 is up-regulated by JNK. JNK-mediated phosphorylation of NFATs thus appears to play a differential physiological role among NFAT family members.

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