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J Biol Chem. 1997 Apr 25;272(17):11426-33.

Constitutively active mutant of the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase MEK1 induces epithelial dedifferentiation and growth inhibition in madin-darby canine kidney-C7 cells.

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Department of Physiology, University of Innsbruck, A-6010 Innsbruck, Austria.


Overexpression of a constitutively active mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MAPKK or MEK) induces neuronal differentiation in adrenal pheochromocytoma 12 cells but transformation in fibroblasts. In the present study, we used a constitutively active MAPK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase 1 (MEK1) mutant to investigate the function of the highly conserved MEK1-ERK2 signaling module in renal epithelial cell differentiation and proliferation. Stable expression of constitutively active MEK1 (CA-MEK1) in epithelial MDCK-C7 cells led to an increased basal and serum-stimulated ERK1 and ERK2 phosphorylation as well as ERK2 activation when compared with mock-transfected cells. In both mock-transfected and CA-MEK1-transfected MDCK-C7 cells, basal and serum-stimulated ERK1 and ERK2 phosphorylation was almost abolished by the synthetic MEK inhibitor PD098059. Increased ERK2 activation due to stable expression of CA-MEK1 in MDCK-C7 cells was associated with epithelial dedifferentiation as shown by both a dramatic alteration in cell morphology and an abolished cytokeratin expression but increased vimentin expression. In addition, we obtained a delayed and reduced serum-stimulated cell proliferation in CA-MEK1-transfected cells (4.6-fold increase in cell number/cm2 after 5 days of serum stimulation) as compared with mock-transfected controls (12.9-fold increase in cell number/cm2 after 5 days). This result was confirmed by flow cytometric DNA analysis showing that stable expression of CA-MEK1 decreased the proportion of MDCK-C7 cells moving from G0/G1 to G2/M as compared with both untransfected and mock-transfected cells. Taken together, our data demonstrate an association of increased basal and serum-stimulated activity of the MEK1-ERK2 signaling module with epithelial dedifferentiation and growth inhibition in MDCK-C7 cells. Thus, the MEK1-ERK2 signaling pathway could act as a negative regulator of epithelial differentiation thereby leading to an attenuation of MDCK-C7 cell proliferation.

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