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J Biol Chem. 2003 Oct 3;278(40):38360-7. Epub 2003 Jul 21.

Epidermal growth factor receptor is a common mediator of quinone-induced signaling leading to phosphorylation of connexin-43: role of glutathione and tyrosine phosphatases.

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Institut für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Rat liver epithelial cells were exposed to three quinones with different properties: menadione (2-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone, vitamin K3), an alkylating as well as redox-cycling quinone, the strongly alkylating p-benzoquinone (BQ), and the non-arylating redox-cycler, 2,3-dimethoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone (DMNQ). All three quinones induced the activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1 and ERK 2 via the activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and MAPK/ERK kinases (MEK) 1/2. ERK activation resulted in phosphorylation at Ser-279 and Ser-282 of the gap junctional protein, connexin-43, known to result in the loss of gap junctional intercellular communication. Another EGFR-dependent pathway was stimulated, leading to the activation of the antiapoptotic kinase Akt via phosphoinositide 3-kinase. The activation of EGFR-dependent signaling by these quinones was by different mechanisms: (i) menadione, but not BQ or DMNQ, inhibited a protein-tyrosine phosphatase regulating the EGFR, as concluded from an EGFR dephosphorylation assay; (ii) although menadione-induced activation of ERK was unimpaired by pretreatment of cells with N-acetyl cysteine, activation by BQ and DMNQ was prevented; (iii) cellular glutathione (GSH) levels were strongly depleted by BQ. The mere depletion of GSH by application of diethyl maleate EGFR-dependently activated ERK and Akt, thus mimicking BQ effects. GSH levels were only moderately decreased by menadione and not affected by DMNQ. In summary, EGFR-dependent signaling was mediated by protein-tyrosine phosphatase inactivation (menadione), GSH depletion (BQ), and redox-cycling (DMNQ), funneling into the same signaling pathway.

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