Mediator MED23 plays opposing roles in directing smooth muscle cell and adipocyte differentiation

Jing wen Yin, Yan Liang, Ji Yeon Park, Dongrui Chen, Xiao Yao, Qi Xiao, Zhen Liu, Bo Jiang, Yu Fu, Menghan Bao, Yan Huang, Yuting Liu, Jun Yan, Min sheng Zhu, Zhongzhou Yang, Pingjin Gao, Bin Tian, Dangsheng Li, Gang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The Mediator complex functions as a control center, orchestrating diverse signaling, gene activities, and biological processes. However, how Mediator subunits determine distinct cell fates remains to be fully elucidated. Here, we show that Mediator MED23 controls the cell fate preference that directs differentiation into smooth muscle cells (SMCs) or adipocytes. Med23 deficiency facilitates SMC differentiation but represses adipocyte differentiation from the multipotent mesenchymal stem cells. Gene profiling revealed that the presence or absence of Med23 oppositely regulates two sets of genes: the RhoA/MAL targeted cytoskeleton/SMC genes and the Ras/ELK1 targeted growth/ adipogenic genes. Mechanistically, MED23 favors ELK1-SRF binding to SMC gene promoters for repression, whereas the lack of MED23 favors MAL-SRF binding to SMC gene promoters for activation. Remarkably, the effect of MED23 on SMC differentiation can be recapitulated in zebrafish embryogenesis. Collectively, our data demonstrate the dual, opposing roles for MED23 in regulating the cytoskeleton/SMC and growth/adipogenic gene programs, suggesting its "Ying-Yang" function in directing adipogenesis versus SMC differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2192-2205
Number of pages14
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


  • Adipocyte
  • Differentiation
  • ELK1
  • MAL
  • MED23
  • Mediator complex
  • Smooth muscle cell

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