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Eur J Haematol. 2010 May;84(5):430-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0609.2010.01416.x. Epub 2010 Jan 13.

Involvement of ERK1/2, p38 and PI3K in megakaryocytic differentiation of K562 cells.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


Megakaryocytic differentiation of myelogenous leukemia cell lines induced by a number of chemical compounds mimics, in part, the physiological process that takes place in the bone marrow in response to a variety of stimuli. We have investigated the involvement of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) [extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK1/2) and p38] and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathways in the differentiated phenotypes of K562 cells promoted by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate, staurosporine (STA), and the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB202190. In our experimental conditions, only STA-treated cells showed the phenotype of mature megakaryocytes (MKs) including GPIbalpha expression, DNA endoreduplication, and formation of platelet-like structures. We provide evidence supporting that basal activity, but not sustained activation, of ERK1/2 is required for expression of MK surface markers. Moreover, ERK1/2 signaling is not involved in cell endomitosis. The PI3K pathway exerts dual regulatory effects on K562 cell differentiation: it is intimately connected with ERK1/2 cascade to stimulate expression of surface markers and it is also necessary, but not sufficient, for polyploidization. Finally, apoptosis and megakaryocytic differentiation exhibit different sensitivity to p38 down-regulation: it is required for expression of early specific markers but is not involved in cell apoptosis. The present work with K562 cells provides new insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating MK differentiation. The results indicate that a precise orchestration of signals, including ERK1/2 and p38 MAPKs as well as PI3K pathway, is necessary for acquisition of features of mature MKs.

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