Ligation of the membrane immunoglobulin M receptor as well as stimulation with the protein kinase C agonist phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate leads to a B-lymphocyte proliferation and differentiation. Both stimuli activate p42 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase in human B-lymphocytes [Casillas, Hanekom, Williams, Katz and Nel (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266, 19088-19094]. MAP kinase activation is dependent on tyrosine as well as threonine phosphorylation of the kinase and its activity is inhibited by tyrosine as well as threonine/serine phosphatases. Okadaic acid, a specific inhibitor of type 1 and 2A serine/threonine phosphatases, induced MAP kinase activity in a potent and dose-dependent fashion, but failed to induce [3H]thymidine incorporation into normal human tonsil B-cells. Moreover, in combination with membrane immunoglobulin M ligation, okadaic acid decreased rather than increased [3H]thymidine incorporation. The kinetics of MAP kinase activation by okadaic acid differed from phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and anti-membrane immunoglobulin M stimulation. Okadaic acid induced tyrosine phosphorylation of 42 kDa and 44 kDa proteins which co-electrophoresed and co-chromatographed with ERK-2 and ERK-1 respectively. Ramos cells also contained a constitutively active 46 kDa MAP kinase which appeared as a separate peak in chromatography and could be immunoprecipitated by an antiserum against a rat ERK-1 fusion protein.

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