Selvaraj N, Budka JA, Ferris MW, Plotnik JP, Hollenhorst PC
JUN transcription factors bind DNA as part of the AP-1 complex, regulate many cellular processes, and play a key role in oncogenesis. The three JUN proteins (c-JUN, JUNB, and JUND) can have both redundant and unique functions depending on the biological phenotype and cell type assayed. Mechanisms that allow this dynamic switching between overlapping and distinct functions are unclear. Here we demonstrate that JUND has a role in prostate cell migration that is the opposite of c-JUN and JUNB. RNA sequencing reveals that opposing regulation by c-JUN and JUND defines a subset of AP-1 target genes with cell migration roles. Cis-regulatory elements for only this subset of targets were enriched for ETS factor binding, indicating a specificity mechanism. Interestingly, the function of c-JUN and JUND in prostate cell migration switched when comparing cells with an inactive versus active RAS/ERK signaling pathway. We show this switch is due to phosphorylation and activation of JUND by ERK. Thus, the ETS/AP-1 sequence defines a unique gene expression program regulated by the relative level of JUN proteins and RAS/ERK signaling. This work provides a rationale for how transcription factors can have distinct roles depending on the signaling status and the biological function in question.