Inactivation of Cyclic AMP Response Element Transcription Caused by Constitutive p38 Activation Is Mediated by Hyperphosphorylation-Dependent CRTC2 Nucleocytoplasmic Transport [Research Article]

The p38 signal transduction pathway can be activated transiently or constitutively, depending on the contexts in which the activation occurs. However, the biological consequence of constitutive activation of p38 is largely unknown. After screening 300 transcriptional cofactors, we identified CRTC2 as a downstream substrate of constitutively activated p38. Constitutive, rather than transient, activation of p38 led to hyperphosphorylation of CRTC2, resulting in CRTC2 cytosolic relocation and subsequent inactivation of cyclic AMP response element (CRE)-mediated transcription. Interestingly, the cytosolic translocation of CRTC2 depended on phosphorylation accumulation at multiple sites (≥11 phosphoserine/phosphothreonine residues) but not on specific sites. The hyperphosphorylation-driven nucleocytoplasmic transport of CRTC2 may not be a rare case of nuclear export of proteins, as we also observed that constitutively activated p38 promoted FOS nuclear export in a hyperphosphorylation-dependent manner. Collectively, our study uncovered a previously unknown mechanism of inactivation of selected transcription, which results from hyperphosphorylation-driven nucleocytoplasmic transport of cofactors or transcription factors mediated by constitutively active kinase.

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