A wide range of growth factors encode information into specific temporal patterns of MAP kinase (MAPK) and CREB phosphorylation, which are further decoded by expression of immediate early gene products (IEGs) to exert biological functions. However, the IEG decoding system remain unknown. We built a data-driven based on time courses of MAPK and CREB phosphorylation and IEG expression in response to various growth factors to identify how signal is processed. We found that IEG expression uses common decoding systems regardless of growth factors and expression of each IEG differs in upstream dependency, switch-like response, and linear temporal filters. Pulsatile ERK phosphorylation was selectively decoded by expression of EGR1 rather than c-FOS. Conjunctive NGF and PACAP stimulation was selectively decoded by synergistic JUNB expression through switch-like response to c-FOS. Thus, specific temporal patterns and combinations of MAPKs and CREB phosphorylation can be decoded by selective IEG expression via distinct temporal filters and switch-like responses. The data-driven modeling is versatile for analysis of signal processing and does not require detailed prior knowledge of pathways.
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