Activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2) has been shown to regulate gene expression in the cellular response to environmental stresses such as ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. However, the signal transduction mechanism of ATF2 activation by UV is not as yet completely understood. In the present study, we provide evidence showing that UVC-stimulated phosphorylation of ATF2 (Thr71) was to varying degrees prevented by a dominant negative mutant of p38β kinase, c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) or extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2). The phosphorylation was also suppressed by PD98059, an MEK inhibitor, or H89, a potent inhibitor of mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinase 1 (MSK1), and a C- or N-terminal 'kinase-dead' mutant of MSK1 (MSK1-Cd or MSK1-Nd). Furthermore, co-immunoprecipitation experiments revealed a potential intracellular signaling complex consisting of ATF2 and ERKs and/or MSK1. In vitro kinase assays revealed that ERK1, ERK2 and MSK1, like p38 kinase and JNK2, directly phosphorylate ATF2 at Thr71, but addition of RSK2 or Akt1 had almost no effect. Active kinase immunoprecipitated by an MSK1, ERKs or p38 antibody from an extract of JB6 cells irradiated by UVC can directly phosphorylate ATF2 at Thr71, suggesting UVC induces a direct phosphorylation of ATF2 by ERKs or MSK1. Overall, our results reveal that MSK1 and ERKs, like p38 kinase and JNKs, are required for ATF2 phosphorylation (Thr71) in the UVC response.
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We thank Ms Andria Hansen for secretarial assistance. This work was supported in part by The Hormel Foundation and National Institutes of Health grant CA77646.