J Biol Chem 2016 Feb 30;291(8):3947-58. Epub 2015 Dec 30.
From the Departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461,
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 up-regulation of c-Maf. These molecular mechanisms are applicable for other crystallins and genes highly expressed in terminally differentiated lens fibers.