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J Biol Chem. 2009 Aug 28;284(35):23564-73. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.027821. Epub 2009 Jul 6.

ERK5 activity is required for nerve growth factor-induced neurite outgrowth and stabilization of tyrosine hydroxylase in PC12 cells.

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Department of Cellular Signaling, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tohoku University, Aoba, Aramaki, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8578, Japan.


Extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) play important physiological roles in proliferation, differentiation, and gene expression. ERK5 is approximately twice the size of ERK1/2, and its amino-terminal half contains the kinase domain that shares homology with ERK1/2 and TEY activation motif, whereas the carboxyl-terminal half is unique. In this study, we examined a physiological role of ERK5 in rat pheochromocytoma cells (PC12), comparing it with ERK1/2. Nerve growth factor (NGF) induced phosphorylation of both ERK5 and ERK1/2, whereas the cAMP analog dibutyryl cAMP (Bt(2)cAMP) caused only ERK1/2 phosphorylation. U0126, at 30 mum, that blocks ERK1/2 signaling selectively attenuated neurite outgrowth induced by NGF and Bt(2)cAMP, but BIX02188 and BIX02189, at 30 mum, that block ERK5 signaling and an ERK5 dominant-negative mutant suppressed only NGF-induced neurite outgrowth. Next, we examined the expression of tyrosine hydroxylase, a rate-limiting enzyme of catecholamine biosynthesis. Both NGF and Bt(2)cAMP increased tyrosine hydroxylase gene promoter activity in an ERK1/2-dependent manner but was ERK5-independent. However, when both ERK5 and ERK1/2 signalings were inhibited, tyrosine hydroxylase protein up-regulation by NGF and Bt(2)cAMP was abolished, because of the loss of stabilization of tyrosine hydroxylase protein by ERK5. Taking these results together, ERK5 is involved in neurite outgrowth and stabilization of tyrosine hydroxylase in PC12 cells, and ERK5, along with ERK1/2, plays essential roles in the neural differentiation process.

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