Esnault C. et al.
We investigated the relationship among ERK signaling, histone modifications, and transcription factor activity, focusing on the ERK-regulated ternary complex factor family of SRF partner proteins. In MEFs, activation of ERK by TPA stimulation induced a common pattern of H3K9acS10ph, H4K16ac, H3K27ac, H3K9acK14ac, and H3K4me3 at hundreds of transcription start site (TSS) regions and remote regulatory sites. The magnitude of the increase in histone modification correlated well with changes in transcription. H3K9acS10ph preceded the other modifications. Most induced changes were TCF dependent, but TCF-independent TSSs exhibited the same hierarchy, indicating that it reflects gene activation per se. Studies with TCF Elk-1 mutants showed that TCF-dependent ERK-induced histone modifications required Elk-1 to be phosphorylated and competent to activate transcription. Analysis of direct TCF-SRF target genes and chromatin modifiers confirmed this and showed that H3S10ph required only Elk-1 phosphorylation. Induction of histone modifications following ERK stimulation is thus directed by transcription factor activation and transcription.