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Mol Cell Biol. Apr 1997; 17(4): 1947–1958.
PMCID: PMC232041

Megakaryocytic differentiation induced by constitutive activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase.


The K562 erythroleukemia cell line was used to study the molecular mechanisms regulating lineage commitment of hematopoietic stem cells. Phorbol esters, which initiate megakaryocyte differentiation in this cell line, caused a rapid increase in extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK), which remained elevated for 2 h and returned to near-basal levels by 24 h. In the absence of extracellular stimuli, ERK could be activated by expression of constitutively active mutants of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase kinase (MKK), resulting in cell adhesion and spreading, increased cell size, inhibition of cell growth, and induction of the platelet-specific integrin alphaIIb beta3, all hallmarks of megakaryocytic differentiation. In contrast, expression of wild-type MKK had little effect. In addition, constitutively active MKK suppressed the expression of an erythroid marker, alpha-globin, indicating the ability to suppress cellular responses necessary for alternative cell lineages. The MKK inhibitor PD98059 blocked MKK/ERK activation and cellular responses to phorbol ester, demonstrating that activation of MKK is necessary and sufficient to induce a differentiation program along the megakaryocyte lineage. Thus, the MAP kinase cascade, which promotes cell growth and proliferation in many cell types, instead inhibits cell proliferation and initiates lineage-specific differentiation in K562 cells, establishing a model system to investigate the mechanisms by which this signal transduction pathway specifies cell fate and developmental processes.

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Selected References

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