The antiproliferative ELF2 isoform, ELF2B, induces apoptosis in vitro and perturbs early lymphocytic development in vivo

Fiona H. X. Guan†, Charles G. Bailey, Cynthia Metierre, Patrick O’Young, Dadi Gao, Teh Liane Khoo, Jeff Holst and John E. J. Rasko


ELF2 (E74-like factor 2) also known as NERF (new Ets-related factor), a member of the Ets family of transcription factors, regulates genes important in B and T cell development, cell cycle progression, and angiogenesis. Conserved ELF2 isoforms, ELF2A, and ELF2B, arising from alternative promoter usage can exert opposing effects on target gene expression. ELF2A activates, whilst ELF2B represses, gene expression, and the balance of expression between these isoforms may be important in maintaining normal cellular function.


We compared the function of ELF2 isoforms ELF2A and ELF2B with other ELF subfamily proteins ELF1 and ELF4 in primary and cancer cell lines using proliferation, colony-forming, cell cycle, and apoptosis assays. We further examined the role of ELF2 isoforms in haemopoietic development using a Rag1 -/-murine bone marrow reconstitution model.


ELF2B overexpression significantly reduced cell proliferation and clonogenic capacity, minimally disrupted cell cycle kinetics, and induced apoptosis. In contrast, ELF2A overexpression only marginally reduced clonogenic capacity with little effect on proliferation, cell cycle progression, or apoptosis. Deletion of the N-terminal 19 amino acids unique to ELF2B abrogated the antiproliferative and proapoptotic functions of ELF2B thereby confirming its crucial role. Mice expressing Elf2a or Elf2b in haemopoietic cells variously displayed perturbations in the pre-B cell stage and multiple stages of T cell development. Mature B cells, T cells, and myeloid cells in steady state were unaffected, suggesting that the main role of ELF2 is restricted to the early development of B and T cells and that compensatory mechanisms exist. No differences in B and T cell development were observed between ELF2 isoforms.


We conclude that ELF2 isoforms are important regulators of cellular proliferation, cell cycle progression, and apoptosis. In respect to this, ELF2B acts in a dominant negative fashion compared to ELF2A and as a putative tumour suppressor gene. Given that these cellular processes are critical during haemopoiesis, we propose that the regulatory interplay between ELF2 isoforms contributes substantially to early B and T cell development.


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March, 2017



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