ATF-2 contains a phosphorylation-dependent transcriptional activation domain.
The ATF-2 transcription factor can mediate adenovirus E1A-inducible transcriptional activation. Deletion analysis has indicated that the N-terminal region of ATF-2 is essential for this response. Furthermore, the N-terminus can activate transcription in the absence of E1A when fused to a heterologous DNA binding domain. However, in the intact protein this activation domain is masked. In this report we show that residues in the N-terminus required for activation are also required for mediating E1A stimulation. In particular two threonine residues at positions 69 and 71 are essential. These residues are phosphorylated in vivo and can be efficiently phosphorylated in vitro by the JNK/SAPK subgroup of the MAPK family. ATF-2 can bind to a UV-inducible kinase through a region in the N-terminus that is distinct from the sites of phosphorylation; this binding region is both necessary for phosphorylation by JNK/SAPK in vitro and for transcriptional activation in vivo. The activity of the N-terminus is stimulated by UV irradiation which stimulates the signalling pathway leading to JNK/SAPK. Finally, although ATF-2 binds to the E1A protein, the N-terminal activation domain is not required for this interaction. The results show that ATF-2, like other members of the ATF/CREB family of DNA binding proteins is regulated by specific signalling pathways.