Reduced dosage of ERF causes complex craniosynostosis in humans and mice and links ERK1/2 signaling to regulation of osteogenesis.
Twigg SRF., Vorgia E., McGowan SJ., Peraki I., Fenwick AL., Sharma VP., Allegra M., Zaragkoulias A., Sadighi Akha E., Knight SJL., Lord H., Lester T., Izatt L., Lampe AK., Mohammed SN., Stewart FJ., Verloes A., Wilson LC., Healy C., Sharpe PT., Hammond P., Hughes J., Taylor S., Johnson D., Wall SA., Mavrothalassitis G., Wilkie AOM.
The extracellular signal-related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) are key proteins mediating mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling downstream of RAS: phosphorylation of ERK1/2 leads to nuclear uptake and modulation of multiple targets. Here, we show that reduced dosage of ERF, which encodes an inhibitory ETS transcription factor directly bound by ERK1/2 (refs. 2,3,4,5,6,7), causes complex craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the cranial sutures) in humans and mice. Features of this newly recognized clinical disorder include multiple-suture synostosis, craniofacial dysmorphism, Chiari malformation and language delay. Mice with functional Erf levels reduced to ∼30% of normal exhibit postnatal multiple-suture synostosis; by contrast, embryonic calvarial development appears mildly delayed. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and high-throughput sequencing, we find that ERF binds preferentially to elements away from promoters that contain RUNX or AP-1 motifs. This work identifies ERF as a novel regulator of osteogenic stimulation by RAS-ERK signaling, potentially by competing with activating ETS factors in multifactor transcriptional complexes.