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Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling regulates a multitude of cellular processes, including cell proliferation, survival, migration, and differentiation. In the vertebrate lens, FGF signaling regulates fiber cell differentiation characterized by high expression of crystallin proteins. However, a direct link between FGF signaling and crystallin gene transcriptional machinery remains to be established. Previously, we have shown that the bZIP proto-oncogene c-Maf regulates expression of αA-crystallin (Cryaa) through binding to its promoter and distal enhancer, DCR1, both activated by FGF2 in cell culture. Herein, we identified and characterized a novel FGF2-responsive region in the c-Maf promoter (-272/-70, FRE). Both c-Maf and Cryaa regulatory regions contain arrays of AP-1 and Ets-binding sites. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays established binding of c-Jun (an AP-1 factor) and Etv5/ERM (an Ets factor) to these regions in lens chromatin. Analysis of temporal and spatial expression of c-Jun, phospho-c-Jun, and Etv5/ERM in wild type and ERK1/2 deficient lenses supports their roles as nuclear effectors of FGF signaling in mouse embryonic lens. Collectively, these studies show that FGF signaling up-regulates expression of αA-crystallin both directly and indirectly via upregulation of c-Maf. These molecular mechanisms are applicable for other crystallins and genes highly expressed in terminally differentiated lens fibers.
Xie, Q., McGreal, R., Harris, R., Gao, C. Y., Liu, W., Reneker, L. W., … Cvekl, A. (2016). Regulation of c-Maf and αA-Crystallin in ocular lens by fibroblast growth factor signaling. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 291(8), 3947–3958. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M115.705103