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Cell Signal. 2009 Dec;21(12):1910-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2009.08.008. Epub 2009 Sep 3.

MEK1 plays contrary stage-specific roles in skeletal myogenic differentiation.

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Center for Biomedical Sciences, National Institute of Health, Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 194 Tongillo, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


The role of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling in skeletal myogenesis has been reported to be both stimulatory and inhibitory. We propose that this discrepancy may arise from the stage-specific, different roles of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 (MEK1). We found that the phosphorylated MEK1 level of differentiating C2C12 cells was low on day 1 (early-stage) and reached a maximum on days 2-3 (mid-stage). Cells treated at early stage with the MEK-specific inhibitors, PD184352 and U0126, reduced both the MHC protein level and MCK promoter activity, demonstrating that high MEK1 activity at the mid-stage is required for myogenic differentiation. In contrast, treatment with the ERK-specific inhibitors, FR180204 and ERK inhibitor I, had no effect. However, because the sustained overexpression of constitutively active MEK1 inhibits myogenic differentiation, we further analyzed the stage-specific role of MEK1 using the Tet-Off expression system. The results demonstrated that myogenic differentiation was inhibited if active MEK1 expression was induced earlier than day 1 in differentiation condition, but stimulated if induced after that, demonstrating that activated MEK1 plays differential roles depending on activation time. In addition, the induction of active MEK1 at 12h enhanced the Id2 protein level, while the induction at 36h resulted in reduction. Thus, MEK1 plays stage-specific and contrary roles in myogenesis, and MEK1 activated at the mid-stage promotes muscle differentiation independent of ERK.

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