The expression of ELK transcription factors in adult DRG: Novel isoforms, antisense transcripts and upregulation by nerve damage

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ELK transcription factors are known to be expressed in a number of regions in the nervous system. We show by RT-PCR that the previously described Elk1, Elk3/Elk3b/Elk3c and Elk4 mRNAs are expressed in adult dorsal root ganglia (DRG), together with the novel alternatively spliced isoforms Elk1b, Elk3d and Elk4c/Elk4d/Elk4e. These isoforms are also expressed in brain, heart, kidney and testis. In contrast to Elk3 protein, the novel Elk3d isoform is cytoplasmic, fails to bind ETS binding sites and yet can activate transcription by an indirect mechanism. The Elk3 and Elk4 genes are overlapped by co-expressed Pctk2 (Cdk17) and Mfsd4 genes, respectively, with the potential formation of Elk3/Pctaire2 and Elk4/Mfsd4 sense–antisense mRNA heteroduplexes. After peripheral nerve injury the Elk3 mRNA isoforms are each upregulated ˜2.3-fold in DRG (P<0.005), whereas the natural antisense Pctaire2 isoforms show only a small increase (21%, P<0.01) and Elk1 and Elk4 mRNAs are unchanged.

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