The MAPK Erk5 is necessary for proper skeletogenesis involving a Smurf-Smad-Sox9 molecular axis

Development. 2018 Jul 26;145(14):dev164004. doi: 10.1242/dev.164004.


Erk5 belongs to the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family. Following its phosphorylation by Mek5, Erk5 modulates several signaling pathways in a number of cell types. In this study, we demonstrated that Erk5 inactivation in mesenchymal cells causes abnormalities in skeletal development by inducing Sox9, an important transcription factor of skeletogenesis. We further demonstrate that Erk5 directly phosphorylates and activates Smurf2 (a ubiquitin E3 ligase) at Thr249, which promotes the proteasomal degradation of Smad proteins and phosphorylates Smad1 at Ser206 in the linker region known to trigger its proteasomal degradation by Smurf1. Smads transcriptionally activated the expression of Sox9 in mesenchymal cells. Accordingly, removal of one Sox9 allele in mesenchymal cells from Erk5-deficient mice rescued some abnormalities of skeletogenesis. These findings highlight the importance of the Mek5-Erk5-Smurf-Smad-Sox9 axis in mammalian skeletogenesis.

Keywords: MAPK; Mouse; Proteasomal degradation; Skeletal development; Smads; Smurfs; Sox9.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chondrogenesis
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 7 / metabolism*
  • Osteogenesis*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteolysis
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Skull / abnormalities
  • Smad Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitination


  • SOX9 Transcription Factor
  • Smad Proteins
  • Ubiquitin
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 7