ELK4 neutralization sensitizes glioblastoma to apoptosis through downregulation of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1

Bryan W. Day, Brett W. Stringer, Mark D. Spanevello, Sara Charmsaz, Paul R. Jamieson, Kathleen S. Ensbey, Jacinta C. Carter, Joanne M. Cox, Vicky J. Ellis, Christopher L. Brown, David G. Walker, Po L. Inglis, Suzanne Allan, Brent A. Reynolds, Jason D. Lickliter, Andrew W. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Glioma is the most common adult primary brain tumor. Its most malignant form, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is almost invariably fatal, due in part to the intrinsic resistance of GBM to radiation-and chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. We analyzed B-cell leukemia-2 (Bcl-2) anti-apoptotic proteins in GBM and found myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) to be the highest expressed in the majority of malignant gliomas. Mcl-1 was functionally important, as neutralization of Mcl-1 induced apoptosis and increased chemotherapyinduced apoptosis. To determine how Mcl-1 was regulated in glioma, we analyzed the promoter and identified a novel functional single nucleotide polymorphism in an uncharacterized E26 transformation-specific (ETS) binding site. We identified the ETS transcription factor ELK4 as a critical regulator of Mcl-1 in glioma, since ELK4 downregulation was shown to reduce Mcl-1 and increase sensitivity to apoptosis. Importantly the presence of the single nucleotide polymorphism, which ablated ELK4 binding in gliomas, was associated with lower Mcl-1 levels and a greater dependence on BclxL. Furthermore, in vivo, ELK4 downregulation reduced tumor formation in glioblastoma xenograft models. The critical role of ELK4 in Mcl-1 expression and protection from apoptosis in glioma defines ELK4 as a novel potential therapeutic target for GBM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1202-1212
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • ELK4
  • Glioblastoma
  • Glioma
  • Mcl-1


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