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SRF phosphorylation by glycogen synthase kinase-3 promotes axon growth in hippocampal neurons.

Li C.L., Sathyamurthy A., Oldenborg A., Tank D., Ramanan N.

The growth of axons is an intricately regulated process involving intracellular signaling cascades and gene transcription. We had previously shown that the stimulus-dependent transcription factor, serum response factor (SRF), plays a critical role in regulating axon growth in the mammalian brain. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying SRF-dependent axon growth remains unknown. Here we report that SRF is phosphorylated and activated by GSK-3 to promote axon outgrowth in mouse hippocampal neurons. GSK-3 binds to and directly phosphorylates SRF on a highly conserved serine residue. This serine phosphorylation is necessary for SRF activity and for its interaction with MKL-family cofactors, MKL1 and MKL2, but not with TCF-family cofactor, ELK-1. Axonal growth deficits caused by GSK-3 inhibition could be rescued by expression of a constitutively active SRF. The SRF target gene and actin-binding protein, vinculin, is sufficient to overcome the axonal growth deficits of SRF-deficient and GSK-3-inhibited neurons. Furthermore, short hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of vinculin also attenuated axonal growth. Thus, our findings reveal a novel phosphorylation and activation of SRF by GSK-3 that is critical for SRF-dependent axon growth in mammalian central neurons.

J. Neurosci. 34:4027-4042(2014) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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