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Stepwise evolution of Elk-1 in early deuterostomes

Saxton, Janice; Ferjentsik, Zoltan; Ducker, Charles; Shaw, Peter E.


Janice Saxton

Zoltan Ferjentsik

Peter E. Shaw


Metazoans have multiple ETS paralogues with overlapping or indiscriminate biological functions. Elk- 1, one of three mammalian Ternary Complex Factors (TCFs), is a well-conserved, ETS domain-containing transcriptional regulator of mitogen-responsive genes that operates in concert with Serum Response Factor (SRF). Nonetheless, its genetic role remains unresolved because the elk-1 gene could be deleted from the mouse genome seemingly without adverse effect. Here we have explored the evolution of Elk-1 to gain insight into its conserved biological role.
We identified antecedent Elk-1 proteins in extant early metazoans and used amino acid sequence alignments to chart the appearance of domains characteristic of human Elk-1. We then performed biochemical studies to determine whether putative domains apparent in the Elk-1 protein of a primitive hemichordate were functionally orthologous to those of human Elk-1.
Our findings imply the existence of primordial Elk-1 proteins in primitive deuterostomes that could operate as mitogen-responsive ETS transcription factors but not as TCFs. The role of TCF was acquired later, but presumably prior to the whole genome duplications in the basal vertebrate lineage. Thus its evolutionary origins link Elk-1 to the appearance of mesoderm.


Saxton, J., Ferjentsik, Z., Ducker, C., & Shaw, P. E. (in press). Stepwise evolution of Elk-1 in early deuterostomes. FEBS Journal, 283(6),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 23, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 18, 2016
Deposit Date Jul 8, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 8, 2016
Journal FEBS Journal
Print ISSN 1742-464X
Electronic ISSN 1742-4658
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 283
Issue 6
Keywords ETS-Domain, Transcription, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK), Mediator, Mesoderm, Germ Line
Public URL
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Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Saxton, J., Ferjentsik, Z., Ducker, C., Johnson, A. D. and Shaw, P. E. (2016), Stepwise evolution of Elk-1 in early deuterostomes. FEBS J, 283: 1025–1038. doi:10.1111/febs.13607 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving


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