The ETS-domain transcription factor Elk-1 is regulated by phosphorylation in response to activation of the MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) pathways. This phosphorylation triggers a series of molecular events that convert Elk-1 from a transcriptionally silent state into a highly active state and then back to a basal level. At the same time, activation of the ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) MAPK pathway leads to loss of modification of Elk-1 by SUMO (small ubiquitin-related modifier). As SUMO imparts repressive properties on Elk-1, ERK-mediated SUMO loss leads to de-repression at the same time as the ERK pathway promotes activation of Elk-1. Thus a two-step mechanism is employed to convert Elk-1 into its fully activated state. Here, the molecular events underlying these changes in Elk-1 status, and the role of PIASxα [protein inhibitor of activated STAT (signal transducer and activator of transcription) xα] as a co-activator that facilitates this process, are discussed.

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