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J Biol Chem. 2011 Dec 30;286(52):45131-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.274076. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Global expression analysis identified a preferentially nerve growth factor-induced transcriptional program regulated by sustained mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and AP-1 protein activation during PC12 cell differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Neuronal differentiation of PC12 cells in response to NGF is a prototypical model in which signal duration determines a biological response. Sustained ERK activity induced by NGF, as compared with transient activity induced by EGF, is critical to the differentiation of these cells. To characterize the transcriptional program activated preferentially by NGF, we compared global gene expression profiles between cells treated with NGF and EGF for 2-4 h, when sustained ERK signaling in response to NGF is most distinct from the transient signal elicited by EGF. This analysis identified 69 genes that were preferentially up-regulated in response to NGF. As expected, up-regulation of these genes was mediated by sustained ERK signaling. In addition, they were up-regulated in response to other neuritogenic treatments (pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate plus dbcAMP) and were enriched for genes related to neuronal differentiation/function. Computational analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation identified binding of CREB and AP-1 family members (Fos, FosB, Fra1, JunB, JunD) upstream of >30 and 50%, respectively, of the preferentially NGF-induced genes. Expression of several AP-1 family members was induced by both EGF and NGF, but their induction was more robust and sustained in response to NGF. The binding of Fos family members to their target genes was similarly sustained in response to NGF and was reduced upon MEK inhibition, suggesting that AP-1 contributes significantly to the NGF transcriptional program. Interestingly, Fra1 as well as two other NGF-induced AP-1 targets (HB-EGF and miR-21) function in positive feedback loops that may contribute to sustained AP-1 activity.

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