A conserved MADS-box phosphorylation motif regulates differentiation and mitochondrial function in skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle cells
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Exposure to metabolic disease during fetal development alters cellular differentiation and perturbs metabolic homeostasis, but the underlying molecular regulators of this phenomenon in muscle cells are not completely understood. To address this, we undertook a computational approach to identify cooperating partners of the myocyte enhancer factor-2 (MEF2) family of transcription factors, known regulators of muscle differentiation and metabolic function. We demonstrate that MEF2 and the serum response factor (SRF) collaboratively regulate the expression of numerous muscle-specific genes, including microRNA-133a (miR-133a). Using tandem mass spectrometry techniques, we identify a conserved phosphorylation motif within the MEF2 and SRF Mcm1 Agamous Deficiens SRF (MADS)-box that regulates miR-133a expression and mitochondrial function in response to a lipotoxic signal. Furthermore, reconstitution of MEF2 function by expression of a neutralizing mutation in this identified phosphorylation motif restores miR-133a expression and mitochondrial membrane potential during lipotoxicity. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that miR-133a regulates mitochondrial function through translational inhibition of a mitophagy and cell death modulating protein, called Nix. Finally, we show that rodents exposed to gestational diabetes during fetal development display muscle diacylglycerol accumulation, concurrent with insulin resistance, reduced miR-133a, and elevated Nix expression, as young adult rats. Given the diverse roles of miR-133a and Nix in regulating mitochondrial function, and proliferation in certain cancers, dysregulation of this genetic pathway may have broad implications involving insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and cancer biology.
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