KLF6, a ubiquitously expressed Krüppel-like transcription factor, is frequently inactivated in human cancer and has significant roles in cellular proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation and development. A key mechanism of KLF6-mediated growth suppression is through p53-independent transactivation of p21. Several cancer-derived KLF6 mutants lead to the loss of p21-mediated growth suppression through an unknown mechanism. Because several colorectal cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma-derived KLF6 mutations affect a glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) phosphorylation consensus site, we investigated the role of GSK3β in the regulation of KLF6 function. Based on transient transfection, GSK3β augments the transactivation of a p21 promoter luciferase by KLF6. Reciprocal co-immunoprecipitation of hemagglutinin (HA)-GSK3β and Flag-KLF6 validated the interaction between these two proteins. KLF6 phosphorylation is augmented in the presence of GSK3β based on in vitro and in vivo 32 P incorporation assays. Site-directed mutagenesis of the candidate phosphorylation sites to alanines ('KLF6-4A' phosphomutant) eliminated a higher molecular weight phosphorylated isoform of KLF6 based on western blot. GSK3β augmented the transactivation by wild-type KLF6, but not KLF6-4A, towards the p21 promoter, and increased p21 protein. Functionally, GSK3β enhanced KLF6-mediated growth suppression, which was abrogated by the KLF6-4A phosphomutant. These data establish that GSK3β directly phosphorylates KLF6, which augments its induction of p21 and resultant growth suppression. This interaction may account for the growth-promoting effects of cancer-derived KLF6 mutants that lack tumor suppressor activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4557-4564
Number of pages8
Issue number38
StatePublished - 19 Sep 2013


  • GSK3β
  • KLF6
  • p21
  • phosphorylation


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