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J Biol Chem. 2001 May 25;276(21):18169-77. Epub 2001 Mar 13.

Identification of the mechanisms regulating the differential activation of the mapk cascade by epidermal growth factor and nerve growth factor in PC12 cells.

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Department of Neurosciences and the Alzheimer Research Laboratory, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


In PC12 cells, epidermal growth factor (EGF) transiently stimulates the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, ERK1 and ERK2, and provokes cellular proliferation. In contrast, nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulation leads to the sustained activation of the MAPKs and subsequently to neuronal differentiation. It has been shown that both the magnitude and longevity of MAPK activation governs the nature of the cellular response. The activations of MAPKs are dependent upon two distinct small G-proteins, Ras and Rap1, that link the growth factor receptors to the MAPK cascade by activating c-Raf and B-Raf, respectively. We found that Ras was transiently stimulated upon both EGF and NGF treatment of PC12 cells. However, EGF transiently activated Rap1, whereas NGF stimulated prolonged Rap1 activation. The activation of the ERKs was due almost exclusively (>90%) to the action of B-Raf. The transient activation of the MAPKs by EGF was a consequence of the formation of a short lived complex assembling on the EGF receptor itself, composed of Crk, C3G, Rap1, and B-Raf. In contrast, NGF stimulation of the cells resulted in the phosphorylation of FRS2. FRS2 scaffolded the assembly of a stable complex of Crk, C3G, Rap1, and B-Raf resulting in the prolonged activation of the MAPKs. Together, these data provide a signaling link between growth factor receptors and MAPK activation and a mechanistic explanation of the differential MAPK kinetics exhibited by these growth factors.

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