Phosphorylation of ERK5 on Thr732 is associated with ERK5 nuclear localization and ERK5-dependent transcription

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 17;10(2):e0117914. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117914. eCollection 2015.


Extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) play critical roles in numerous cellular processes, including proliferation and differentiation. ERK5 contains a kinase domain at the N-terminal, and the unique extended C-terminal includes multiple autophosphorylation sites that enhance ERK5-dependent transcription. However, the impact of phosphorylation at the various sites remain unclear. In this study, we examined the role of phosphorylation at the ERK5 C-terminal. We found that a constitutively active MEK5 mutant phosphorylated ERK5 at the TEY motif, resulting in the sequential autophosphorylation of multiple C-terminal residues, including Thr732 and Ser769/773/775. However, when ERK1/2 was selectively activated by an oncogenic RAS mutant, ERK5 phosphorylation at Thr732 was induced without affecting the phosphorylation status at TEY or Ser769/773/775. The Thr732 phosphorylation was U0126-sensitive and was observed in a kinase-dead mutant of ERK5 as well, suggesting that ERK1/2 can phosphorylate ERK5 at Thr732. This phosphorylation was also promoted by epidermal growth factor and nerve growth factor in HEK293 and PC12 cells, respectively. The ERK5-T732A mutant was localized in the cytosol under basal conditions. In contrast, ERK5 phosphorylated at Thr732 via the RAS-ERK1/2 pathway and ERK5-T732E, which mimics the phosphorylated form, were localized in both the nucleus and cytosol. Finally, ER-32A and U0126 blocked ERK5-dependent MEF2C transcriptional activity. Based on these findings, we propose a novel cross-talk mechanism in which ERK1/2, following activation by growth factor stimulation, phosphorylates ERK5 at Thr732. This phosphorylation event is responsible for ERK5 nuclear localization and ERK5-dependent transcription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 7 / chemistry*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 7 / metabolism*
  • PC12 Cells
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Threonine / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Threonine
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 7

Grant support

This work was supported in part by Grants-in-Aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (No. 20790053 and 24790063 to Y.O.), The Exploratory Research Program for Young Scientists of Tohoku University (Y.O.), Sankyo Foundation of Life Science (Y.O.), The NOVARTIS Foundation (Japan) for the Promotion of Science (Y.O.), and Nishinomiya Basic Research Fund (Y.O.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.