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Curr Biol. 2004 Apr 20;14(8):731-5.

ERK activation propagates in epithelial cell sheets and regulates their migration during wound healing.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


In epithelial cell movements, which occur during wound healing or embryonic morphogenesis, sheets of cells move together as a unit. Molecular mechanisms that regulate this sheet movement have been largely unknown, although cell locomotion or movement mechanisms for individual cells, such as for fibroblastic cells, have been extensively studied. Here, we show that, during wound healing, sheets of MDCK epithelial cells migrate coordinately as a unit, and wound-induced activation of ERK MAP kinase (ERK1/2) propagates in cell sheets in accordance with the cell sheet movement. Inhibition of ERK1/2 activation by specific MEK inhibitors or by expressing dominant-negative ERK2 results in marked inhibition of the sheet movement during wound healing, and inhibition of the cell sheet movement by disrupting actin cytoskeleton suppresses propagation of ERK1/2 activation. These results indicate that cell movement and ERK1/2 activation form a positive feedback loop, which facilitates cell sheet migration. Moreover, we find that Src family kinase inhibitors suppress both cell migration and propagation of ERK1/2 activation, suggesting that Src family kinase may participate in this feedback loop. Interestingly, neither cell sheet migration as a unit nor migration-dependent propagation of ERK1/2 activation occurs during wound healing in fibroblastic 3Y1 cells. Thus, our results identify specific requirements of ERK1/2 MAP kinase for epithelial cell sheet movement.

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