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J Biol Chem. 2000 Dec 15;275(50):39435-43.

Requirement for ERK activation in cisplatin-induced apoptosis.

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  • 1Cell Stress and Aging Section, Laboratory of Biological Chemistry, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224-6825, USA.


Cisplatin activates multiple signal transduction pathways involved in coordinating cellular responses to stress. Here we demonstrate a requirement for extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK), a member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase family in mediating cisplatin-induced apoptosis of human cervical carcinoma HeLa cells. Cisplatin treatment resulted in dose- and time- dependent activation of ERK. That elevated ERK activity contributed to cell death by cisplatin was supported by several observations: 1) PD98059 and U0126, chemical inhibitors of the MEK/ERK signaling pathway, prevented apoptosis; 2) pretreatment of cells with TPA, an activator of the ERK pathway, enhanced their sensitivity to cisplatin; 3) suramin, a growth factor receptor antagonist that greatly suppressed ERK activation, likewise inhibited cisplatin-induced apoptosis; and, finally, 4) HeLa cell variants selected for cisplatin resistance showed reduced activation of ERK following cisplatin treatment. Cisplatin-induced apoptosis was associated with cytochrome c release and subsequent caspase-3 activation, both of which could be prevented by treatment with the MEK inhibitors. However, the caspase inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone protected HeLa cells against apoptosis without affecting ERK activation. Taken together, our findings suggest that ERK activation plays an active role in mediating cisplatin-induced apoptosis of HeLa cells and functions upstream of caspase activation to initiate the apoptotic signal.

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