ERK signaling dissolves ERF repression condensates in living embryos

Claire J. Weaver, Aleena L. Patel, Stanislav Y. Shvartsman, Michael S. Levine, Nicholas Treen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Phase separation underlies the organization of the nucleus, including the biogenesis of nucleoli and the packaging of heterochromatin. Here we explore the regulation of transcription factor condensates involved in gene repression by ERK signaling in gastrulating embryos of a simple proto-vertebrate (Ciona). ERK signaling induces nuclear export of the transcriptional repressor Ets-2 repressive factor (ERF), which has been linked to various human developmental disorders. Using high-resolution imaging, we show that ERF is localized within discrete nuclear condensates that dissolve upon ERK activation. Interestingly, we observe dynamic pulses of assembly and dissociation during interphase, providing visualization of a nuclear phase separation process regulated by cell signaling. We discuss the implications of these observations for producing sharp on/off switches in gene activity and suppressing noise in cell–cell signaling events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2119187119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Developmental biology
  • Phase separation
  • Transcriptional repression


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