ERK regulates strain-induced migration and proliferation from different subcellular locations

J Cell Biochem. 2010 Mar 1;109(4):711-25. doi: 10.1002/jcb.22450.


Repetitive deformation like that engendered by peristalsis or villous motility stimulates intestinal epithelial proliferation on collagenous substrates and motility across fibronectin, each requiring ERK. We hypothesized that ERK acts differently at different intracellular sites. We stably transfected Caco-2 cells with ERK decoy expression vectors that permit ERK activation but interfere with its downstream signaling. Targeting sequences constrained the decoy inside or outside the nucleus. We assayed proliferation by cell counting and migration by circular wound closure with or without 10% repetitive deformation at 10 cycles/min. Confocal microscopy confirmed localization of the fusion proteins. Inhibition of phosphorylation of cytoplasmic RSK or nuclear Elk confirmed functionality. Both the nuclear-localized and cytosolic-localized ERK decoys prevented deformation-induced proliferation on collagen. Deformation-induced migration on fibronectin was prevented by constraining the decoy in the nucleus but not in the cytosol. Like the nuclear-localized ERK decoy, a Sef-overexpressing adenovirus that sequesters ERK in the cytoplasm also blocked the motogenic and mitogenic effects of strain. Inhibiting RSK or reducing Elk ablated both the mitogenic and motogenic effects of strain. RSK isoform reduction revealed isoform specificity. These results suggest that ERK must translocate to the nucleus to stimulate cell motility while ERK must act in both the cytosol and the nucleus to stimulate proliferation in response to strain. Selectively targeting ERK within different subcellular compartments may modulate or replace physical force effects on the intestinal mucosa to maintain the intestinal mucosal barrier in settings when peristalsis or villous motility are altered and fibronectin is deposited into injured tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Compartmentation*
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Stress, Mechanical*


  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases