The Journal of biological chemistry

Extracellular Signal-regulated Kinases (ERKs) Phosphorylate Lin28a Protein to Modulate P19 Cell Proliferation and Differentiation.

PMID 28179426


Lin28a, originally discovered in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and highly conserved across species, is a well characterized regulator of let-7 microRNA (miRNA) and is implicated in cell proliferation and pluripotency control. However, little is known about how Lin28a function is modulated at the post-translational level and thereby responds to major signaling pathways. Here we show that Lin28a is directly phosphorylated by ERK1/2 kinases at Ser-200. By editing lin28a gene with the CRISPR/Cas9-based method, we generated P19 mouse embryonic carcinoma stem cells expressing Lin28a-S200A (phospho-deficient) and Lin28a-S200D (phospho-mimetic) mutants, respectively, to study the functional impact of Ser-200 phosphorylation. Lin28a-S200D-expressing cells, but not Lin28a-S200A-expressing or control P19 embryonic carcinoma cells, displayed impaired inhibition of let-7 miRNA and resulted in decreased cyclin D1, whereas Lin28a-S200A knock-in cells expressed less let-7 miRNA, proliferated faster, and exhibited differentiation defect upon retinoic acid induction. Therefore our results support that ERK kinase-mediated Lin28a phosphorylation may be an important mechanism for pluripotent cells to facilitate the escape from the self-renewal cycle and start the differentiation process.