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Blood. 1999 Aug 1;94(3):853-63.

Requirement of activation of JNK and p38 for environmental stress-induced erythroid differentiation and apoptosis and of inhibition of ERK for apoptosis.

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  • 1Tsukuba Life Science Center, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


C-Jun amino terminal kinase/stress-activated protein kinases (JNK/SAPK) and p38 subgroups of mitogen-activated protein kinases have been suggested to play a critical role in apoptosis, cell growth, and/or differentiation. We found that a short exposure of SKT6 cells, which respond to erythropoietin (Epo) and induce erythroid differentiation, to osmotic or heat shock induced transient activation of JNK/SAPK and p38 and inactivation of ERK and resulted in erythroid differentiation without Epo, whereas long exposure of the cells to these stresses induced prolonged activation/inactivation of the same kinases and caused apoptosis. Inhibition of JNK/SAPK and p38 resulted in inhibition of stress-induced erythroid differentiation and apoptosis. Inhibition of ERK had no effect on stress-induced erythroid differentiation, but stimulated apoptosis. Activation of p38 and/or JNK/SAPK for a short time caused erythroid differentiation without Epo, although its prolonged activation induced apoptosis. Activation of ERK suppressed stress-induced apoptosis. These results indicate that short cellular stresses, inducing transient activation of JNK/SAPK and p38, lead to cell differentiation rather than apoptosis. Furthermore, activation of JNK/SAPK and p38 is required for both cell differentiation and apoptosis, and the duration of their activation may determine the cell fate, cell differentiation, and apoptosis. In contrast, inactivation of ERK is required for stress-induced apoptosis but not cell differentiation.

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