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Nat Cell Biol. 2007 Mar;9(3):324-30. Epub 2007 Feb 18.

Growth factor-induced MAPK network topology shapes Erk response determining PC-12 cell fate.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Cell Biology and Biophysics, Meyerhofstrasse 1, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany.


The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) network is a conserved signalling module that regulates cell fate by transducing a myriad of growth-factor signals. The ability of this network to coordinate and process a variety of inputs from different growth-factor receptors into specific biological responses is, however, still not understood. We investigated how the MAPK network brings about signal specificity in PC-12 cells, a model for neuronal differentiation. Reverse engineering by modular-response analysis uncovered topological differences in the MAPK core network dependent on whether cells were activated with epidermal or neuronal growth factor (EGF or NGF). On EGF stimulation, the network exhibited negative feedback only, whereas a positive feedback was apparent on NGF stimulation. The latter allows for bi-stable Erk activation dynamics, which were indeed observed. By rewiring these regulatory feedbacks, we were able to reverse the specific cell responses to EGF and NGF. These results show that growth factor context determines the topology of the MAPK signalling network and that the resulting dynamics govern cell fate.

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