Functional versatility of transcription factors in the nervous system: the SRF paradigm

Trends Neurosci. 2009 Aug;32(8):432-42. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 Jul 28.


Individual transcription factors in the brain frequently display broad functional versatility, thereby controlling multiple cellular outputs. In accordance, neuron-restricted mutagenesis of the murine Srf gene, encoding the transcription factor serum response factor (SRF), revealed numerous SRF functions in the nervous system. First, SRF controls immediate early gene (IEG) activation associated with perception of synaptic activity, learning and memory. Second, processes linked to actin cytoskeletal dynamics are mediated by SRF, such as developmental neuronal migration, outgrowth and pathfinding of neurites, as well as synaptic targeting. Therefore, SRF seems to be instrumental in converting synaptic activity into plasticity-associated structural changes in neuronal connectivities. This highlights the decisive role of SRF in integrating cytoskeletal actin dynamics and nuclear gene expression. Finally, we relate SRF to the multi-functional transcription factor CREB and point out overlapping, distinct and concerted functions of these two transcriptional regulators in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Serum Response Factor / genetics
  • Serum Response Factor / metabolism*


  • Serum Response Factor