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Genetics. 1998 Aug;149(4):1809-22.

Gain-of-function mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans lin-1 ETS gene identify a C-terminal regulatory domain phosphorylated by ERK MAP kinase.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Genetic analysis of lin-1 loss-of-function mutations suggests that lin-1 controls multiple cell-fate decisions during Caenorhabditis elegans development and is negatively regulated by a conserved receptor tyrosine kinase-Ras-ERK mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signal transduction pathway. LIN-1 protein contains an ETS domain and presumably regulates transcription. We identified and characterized six gain-of-function mutations that define a new class of lin-1 allele. These lin-1 alleles appeared to be constitutively active and unresponsive to negative regulation. Each allele has a single-base change that affects the predicted C terminus of LIN-1, suggesting this region is required for negative regulation. The C terminus of LIN-1 was a high-affinity substrate for Erk2 in vitro, suggesting that LIN-1 is directly regulated by ERK MAP kinase. Because mpk-1 ERK MAP kinase controls at least one cell-fate decision that does not require lin-1, our results suggest that MPK-1 contributes to the specificity of this receptor tyrosine kinase-Ras-MAP kinase signal transduction pathway by phosphorylating different proteins in different developmental contexts. These lin-1 mutations all affect a four-amino-acid motif, FQFP, that is conserved in vertebrate and Drosophila ETS proteins that are also phosphorylated by ERK MAP kinase. This sequence may be a substrate recognition motif for the ERK subfamily of MAP kinases.

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