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Mol Biol Cell. 2018 May 15;29(10):1157-1167. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E17-08-0500. Epub 2018 Mar 22.

A biosensor for MAPK-dependent Lin28 signaling.

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Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.
Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases Program, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD 20850.
Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.
Department of Pharmacology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093.
Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.


Intracellular levels of the RNA-binding protein and pluripotency factor, Lin28a, are tightly controlled to govern cellular and organismal growth. Lin28a is extensively regulated at the posttranscriptional level, and can undergo mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-mediated elevation from low basal levels in differentiated cells by phosphorylation-dependent stabilizing interaction with the RNA-silencing factor HIV TAR RNA-binding protein (TRBP). However, molecular and spatiotemporal details of this critical control mechanism remained unknown. In this work, we dissect the interacting regions of Lin28a and TRBP proteins and develop biosensors to visualize this interaction. We identify truncated domains of Lin28a and of TRBP that are sufficient to support coassociation and mutual elevation of protein levels, and a requirement for MAPK-dependent phosphorylation of TRBP at putative Erk-target serine 152, as well as Lin28a serine 200 phosphorylation, in mediating the increase of Lin28a protein by TRBP. The phosphorylation-dependent association of Lin28a and TRBP truncated constructs is leveraged to develop fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based sensors for dynamic monitoring of Lin28a and TRBP interaction. We demonstrate the response of bimolecular and unimolecular FRET sensors to growth factor stimulation in living cells, with coimaging of Erk activation to achieve further understanding of the role of MAPK signaling in Lin28a regulation.

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