Oncogenic KRAS and BRAF activation of the MEK/ERK signaling pathway promotes expression of dual-specificity phosphatase 4 (DUSP4/MKP2) resulting in nuclear ERK1/2 inhibition

Oncogene. 2013 Jan 31;32(5):564-76. doi: 10.1038/onc.2012.88. Epub 2012 Mar 19.


Gain-of-function mutations in KRAS and BRAF genes are found in up to 50% of colorectal cancers. These mutations result in the activation of the BRAF/MEK signaling pathway culminating in the stimulation of ERK1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinases. Upon activation, ERK1/2 translocate from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. This process has been shown to be required for the induction of many cellular responses, although the molecular mechanisms regulating ERK nuclear function, especially under oncogenic stimulation, remain to be explored. Herein, we examined the spatiotemporal regulation of ERK1/2 activity upon oncogenic activation of KRAS(G12V) and BRAF(V600E) in normal intestinal epithelial crypt cells (IECs). Results demonstrate that expression of these oncogenes markedly stimulated ERK1/2 activities and morphologically transformed IECs. Importantly however, ERK phosphorylation was not observed in the nucleus, but restricted to the cytoplasm of KRAS(G12V)- and BRAF(V600E)-transformed IECs. The absence of nuclear ERK phosphorylation was due to a vanadate-sensitive phosphatase activity. Nuclear ERK dephosphorylation was found to be tightly correlated with the rapid expression of DUSP4 phosphatase induced in an MEK-dependent manner. In addition, MEK-dependent phosphorylation of T361, T363, S390 and S395 residues highly stabilized DUSP4 protein. Finally, in human colorectal cancer cells, ERK1/2 activities were also confined to the cytoplasm and treatment with pervanadate reactivated ERK1/2 in the nucleus. Accordingly, DUSP4 mRNAs were found to be highly expressed, in an MEK-dependent manner, in all colorectal cancer cells analyzed. These findings indicate that DUSP4 functions as part of a negative feedback mechanism in the control of the duration and magnitude of nuclear ERK activation during intestinal tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Dual-Specificity Phosphatases / metabolism*
  • Genes, ras*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / genetics*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatases / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics*
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatases
  • DUSP4 protein, human
  • Dual-Specificity Phosphatases