SRF phosphorylation by glycogen synthase kinase-3 promotes axon growth in hippocampal neurons

Cong L. Li, Aruna Sathyamurthy, Anna Oldenborg, Dharmesh Tank, Narendrakumar Ramanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The growth of axons is an intricately regulated process involving intracellular signaling cascades and gene transcription. We had previously shown that the stimulus-dependent transcription factor, serum response factor (SRF), plays a critical role in regulating axon growth in the mammalian brain. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying SRF-dependent axon growth remains unknown. Here we report that SRF is phosphorylated and activated by GSK-3 to promote axon outgrowth in mouse hippocampal neurons. GSK-3 binds to and directly phosphorylates SRF on a highly conserved serine residue. This serine phosphorylation is necessary for SRF activity and for its interaction with MKL-family cofactors, MKL1 and MKL2, but not with TCF-family cofactor, ELK-1. Axonal growth deficits caused by GSK-3 inhibition could be rescued by expression of a constitutively active SRF. The SRF target gene and actin-binding protein, vinculin, is sufficient to overcome the axonal growth deficits of SRF-deficient and GSK-3-inhibited neurons. Furthermore, short hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of vinculin also attenuated axonal growth. Thus, our findings reveal a novel phosphorylation and activation of SRF by GSK-3 that is critical for SRF-dependent axon growth in mammalian central neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4027-4042
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon growth
  • Filopodia
  • GSK-3
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Serum response factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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