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Multi-phenotypic Role of Serum Response Factor in the Gastrointestinal System
Serum response factor (SRF) is a master transcription factor of the actin cytoskeleton that binds to highly conserved CArG boxes located within the majority of smooth muscle cell (SMC)-restricted promoters/enhancers. Although most studies of SRF focus on skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and vascular SMCs, SRF research has recently expanded into the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Genome scale analyses of GI SMC transcriptome and CArG boxes (CArGome) have identified new SRF target genes. In addition to circular and longitudinal smooth muscle layers, SRF is also expressed in GI mucosa and cancers. In the GI tract, SRF is the central regulator of genes involved in apoptosis, dedifferentiation, proliferation, and migration of cells. Since SRF is the cell phenotypic modulator, it may play an essential role in the development of myopathy, hypertrophy, ulcers, gastric and colon cancers within the GI tract. Given the multifunctional role displayed by SRF in the digestive system, SRF has received more attention emerging as a potential therapeutic target. This review summarizes the findings in SRF research pertaining to the GI tract and provides valuable insight into future directions.