MAPK phosphatase-7 (MKP-7) was identified as a JNK-specific phosphatase. However, despite its high specificity for JNK, MKP-7 interacts also with ERK. We previously showed that as a physiological consequence of their interaction, activated ERK phosphorylates MKP-7 at Ser-446, and stabilizing MKP-7. In the present study, we analyzed MKP-7 function in activation of ERK. A time-course experiment showed that both MKP-7 and its phosphatase-dead mutant prolonged mitogen-induced ERK phosphorylation, suggesting that MKP-7 functions as a scaffold for ERK. An important immunohistological finding was that nuclear translocation of phospho-ERK following PMA stimulation was blocked by co-expressed MKP-7 and, moreover, that phospho-ERK co-localized with MKP-7 in the cytoplasm. Reporter gene analysis indicated that MKP-7 blocks ERK-mediated transcription. Overall, our data indicate that MKP-7 down-regulates ERK-dependent gene expression by blocking nuclear accumulation of phospho-ERK.
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