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Blood. 1999 Dec 15;94(12):4067-76.

Distinct roles of JNKs/p38 MAP kinase and ERKs in apoptosis and survival of HCD-57 cells induced by withdrawal or addition of erythropoietin.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.

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Erythropoietin (EPO), a major regulator of erythroid progenitor cells, is essential for the survival, proliferation, and differentiation of immature erythroid cells. To gain insight into the molecular mechanism by which EPO functions, we analyzed the activation of Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) in HCD-57 cells, a murine erythroid progenitor cell line that requires EPO for survival and proliferation. Withdrawal of EPO from the cell culture medium resulted in sustained activation of JNKs plus p38 MAP kinase, and inactivation of ERKs, preceding apoptosis of the cells. Addition of EPO to the EPO-deprived cells caused activation of ERKs accompanied by inactivation of JNKs and p38 MAP kinase and rescued the cells from apoptosis. Phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate, which activated ERKs by a different mechanism, also suppressed the activation of JNKs and significantly retarded apoptosis of the cells caused by withdrawal of EPO. Furthermore, MEK inhibitor PD98059, which inhibited activation of ERKs, caused activation of JNKs, whereas suppression of JNK expression by antisense oligonucleotides and inhibition of p38 MAP kinase by SB203580 caused attenuation of the apoptosis that occurs upon withdrawal of EPO. Finally, the activation of JNKs and p38 MAP kinase and concurrent inactivation of ERKs upon withdrawal of EPO were also observed in primary human erythroid colony-forming cells. Taken together, the data suggest that activation of ERKs promotes cell survival, whereas activation of JNKs and p38 MAP kinase leads to apoptosis and EPO functions by controlling the dynamic balance between ERKs and JNKs.

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