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Cell Death Differ. 2009 May;16(5):674-83. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.193. Epub 2009 Jan 16.

Regulation of neuronal survival by the extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 5.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


The extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 5 (ERK5) is a mitogen-activated protein kinase that phosphorylates and regulates various transcription factors in response to growth factors and extracellular stresses. To address its biological function during the development of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), we have engineered a novel model of sympathetic neurons in which the erk5 gene can be deleted in vitro. Our data provide for the first time genetic evidence that ERK5 is required to mediate the survival response of neurons to nerve growth factor. Increased cell death associated with the loss of ERK5 is caused by elevated expression of the BH3-only members of the Bcl-2 family, Bad and Bim. Further investigation indicated that ERK5 suppresses the transcription of the bad and the bim genes by Ca(2+)/cAMP response element-binding protein and Forkhead box O3a, respectively. Consistently, we found that the phosphorylation of both p90 ribosomal S6 kinase and protein kinase B is impaired in neurons lacking ERK5. Together these findings reveal a novel signaling mechanism that promotes neuronal survival during the development of the PNS.

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