The Key Regulator for Language and Speech Development, FOXP2, is a Novel Substrate for SUMOylation

J Cell Biochem. 2016 Feb;117(2):426-38. doi: 10.1002/jcb.25288.


Transcription factor forkhead box protein P2 (FOXP2) plays an essential role in the development of language and speech. However, the transcriptional activity of FOXP2 regulated by the post-translational modifications remains unknown. Here, we demonstrated that FOXP2 is clearly defined as a SUMO target protein at the cellular levels as FOXP2 is covalently modified by both SUMO1 and SUMO3. Furthermore, SUMOylation of FOXP2 was significantly decreased by SENP2 (a specific SUMOylation protease). We further showed that FOXP2 is selectively SUMOylated in vivo on a phylogenetically conserved lysine 674 but the SUMOylation does not alter subcellular localization and stability of FOXP2. Interestingly, we observed that human etiological FOXP2 R553H mutation robustly reduces its SUMOylation potential as compared to wild-type FOXP2. In addition, the acidic residues downstream the core SUMO motif on FOXP2 are required for its full SUMOylation capacity. Finally, our functional analysis using reporter gene assays showed that SUMOylation may modulate transcriptional activity of FOXP2 in regulating downstream target genes (DISC1, SRPX2, and MiR200c). Altogether, we provide the first evidence that FOXP2 is a substrate for SUMOylation and SUMOylation of FOXP2 plays a functional role in regulating its transcriptional activity.


Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Point Mutation
  • Protein Stability
  • SUMO-1 Protein / metabolism
  • Sumoylation*
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • FOXP2 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • SUMO-1 Protein