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J Biol Chem. 2006 Mar 3;281(9):5648-56. Epub 2006 Jan 4.

Antiapoptotic effects of erythropoietin in differentiated neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells require activation of both the STAT5 and AKT signaling pathways.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


The hematopoietic cytokine erythropoietin (Epo) prevents neuronal death during ischemic events in the brain and in neurodegenerative diseases, presumably through its antiapoptotic effects. To explore the role of different signaling pathways in Epo-mediated antiapoptotic effects in differentiated human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells, we employed a prolactin receptor (PrlR)/erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) chimera system, in which binding of prolactin (Prl) to the extracellular domain activates EpoR signaling in the cytosol. On induction of apoptosis by staurosporine, Prl supports survival of the SH-SY5Y cells expressing the wild-type PrlR/EpoR chimera. In these cells Prl treatment strongly activates the STAT5, AKT, and MAPK signaling pathways and induces weak activation of the p65 NF-kappaB factor. Selective mutation of the eight tyrosine residues of the EpoR cytoplasmic domain results in impaired or absent activation of either STAT5 (mutation of Tyr(343)) or AKT (mutation of Tyr(479)) or both (mutation of all eight tyrosine residues). Most interestingly, Prl treatment does not prevent apoptosis in cells expressing mutant PrlR/EpoR chimeras in which either the STAT5 or the AKT signaling pathways are not activated. In contrast, ERK 1/2 is fully activated by all mutant PrlR/EpoR chimeras, comparable with the level seen with the wild-type PrlR/EpoR chimera, implying that activation of the MAPK signaling pathway per se is not sufficient for antiapoptotic activity. Therefore, the antiapoptotic effects of Epo in neuronal cells require the combinatorial activation of multiple signaling pathways, including STAT5, AKT, and potentially MAPK as well, in a manner similar to that observed in hematopoietic cells.

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