Thrombin induces Egr-1 expression in fibroblasts involving elevation of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, phosphorylation of ERK and activation of ternary complex factor
Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Saarland Medical Center, D-66421 Homburg, Germany
BMC Molecular Biology 2009, 10:40 doi:10.1186/1471-2199-10-40Published: 11 May 2009
The serine protease thrombin catalyzes fibrin clot formation by converting fibrinogen into fibrin. Additionally, thrombin stimulation leads to an activation of stimulus-responsive transcription factors in different cell types, indicating that the gene expression pattern is changed in thrombin-stimulated cells. The objective of this study was to analyze the signaling cascade leading to the expression of the zinc finger transcription factor Egr-1 in thrombin-stimulated lung fibroblasts.
Stimulation of 39M1-81 fibroblasts with thrombin induced a robust and transient biosynthesis of Egr-1. Reporter gene analysis revealed that the newly synthesized Egr-1 was biologically active. The signaling cascade connecting thrombin stimulation with Egr-1 gene expression required elevated levels of cytosolic Ca2+, the activation of diacylgycerol-dependent protein kinase C isoenzymes, and the activation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK). Stimulation of the cells with thrombin triggered the phosphorylation of the transcription factor Elk-1. Expression of a dominant-negative mutant of Elk-1 completely prevented Egr-1 expression in stimulated 39M1-81 cells, indicating that Elk-1 or related ternary complex factors connect the intracellular signaling cascade elicited by activation of protease-activated receptors with transcription of the Egr-1 gene. Lentiviral-mediated expression of MAP kinase phosphatase-1, a dual-specific phosphatase that dephosphorylates and inactivates ERK in the nucleus, prevented Elk-1 phosphorylation and Egr-1 biosynthesis in thrombin stimulated 39M1-81 cells, confirming the importance of nuclear ERK and Elk-1 for the upregulation of Egr-1 expression in thrombin-stimulated lung fibroblasts. 39M1-81 cells additionally express M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. A comparison between the signaling cascades induced by thrombin or carbachol showed no differences, except that signal transduction via M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors required the transactivation of the EGF receptor, while thrombin signaling did not.
This study shows that stimulus-transcription coupling in thrombin-treated lung fibroblasts relies on the elevation of the intracellular Ca2+-concentration and the activation of PKC and ERK. In the nucleus, ternary complex factors function as key proteins linking the intracellular signaling cascade with enhanced transcription of the Egr-1 gene. This study further shows that the dominant-negative Elk-1 mutant is a valuable tool to study Elk-1-mediated gene transcription.