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J Biol Chem. 2003 Aug 29;278(35):32969-77. Epub 2003 Jun 16.

Regulation of insulin gene transcription by ERK1 and ERK2 in pancreatic beta cells.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.


We show that the mitogen-activated protein kinases ERK1/2 are components of the mechanism by which glucose stimulates insulin gene expression. ERK1/2 activity is required for glucose-dependent transcription from both the full-length rat insulin I promoter and the glucose-sensitive isolated E2A3/4 promoter element in intact islets and beta cell lines. Dominant negative ERK2 and MEK inhibitors suppress glucose stimulation of the rat insulin I promoter and the E2A3/4 element. Overexpression of ERK2 is sufficient to stimulate transcription from the E2A3/4 element. The glucose-induced response is dependent upon ERK1/2 phosphorylation of a subset of transcription factors that include Beta2 (also known as NeuroD1) and PDX-1. Phosphorylation increases their functional activity and results in a cumulative transactivation of the promoter. Thus, ERK1/2 act at multiple points to transduce a glucose signal to insulin gene transcription.

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