Phosphorylation of the MADS-box transcription factor MEF2C enhances its DNA binding activity

Jeffery D. Molkentin, Li Li, Eric N. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Members of the myocyte enhancer factor-2 (MEF2) family of transcription factors activate muscle gene expression by binding an A/T-rich DNA sequence in the control regions of muscle-specific genes. There are four MEF2 factors in vertebrates, MEF2A-D, which share homology in an amino-terminal MADS domain and an adjacent region known as the MEF2 domain, that together mediate DNA binding and dimerization. We show that serine 59 located between the MADS and MEF2 domains of MEF2C is phosphorylated in vivo and can be phosphorylated in vitro by casein kinase-II (CKII). Phosphorylation of this site enhanced the DNA binding and transcriptional activity of MEF2C by increasing its DNA binding activity 5-fold. In vivo 32P labeling experiments showed that serine 59 is the only phosphorylation site in the MADS and MEF2 domains. Mutagenesis of this serine to an aspartic acid resulted in an increase in DNA binding and transcriptional activity of MEF2C comparable to that observed when this site was phosphorylated, suggesting that phosphorylation augments DNA binding activity by introducing negative charge. This phosphorylation site, which corresponds to a CKII recognition site, is conserved in all known MEF2 factors in organisms ranging from flies to humans, consistent with its importance for the functions of MEF2C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17199-17204
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number29
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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