In rat aortic smooth muscle cells, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) stimulated a sustained activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP kinase) while the response to angiotensin II (AII) was transient. This was due to a relatively greater initial activation of MAP kinase kinase (MEK) and a correspondingly greater residual MEK activity at later time points. Pretreatment of cells with the novel MEK inhibitor PD 098059 reduced MEK activation at 5 min in response to each agonist by a similar proportion (70%); however, at this time point MAP kinase activation in response to PDGF was only marginally affected while the response to AII was substantially reduced. PD 098059 did, however, reduce PDGF-stimulated MEK activity after 30 min and this correlated with a loss in MAP kinase activity and DNA synthesis. Pretreatment with forskolin also caused a similar pattern of inhibition of agonist-stimulated MEK and MAP kinase activity. Only following protein kinase C down-regulation were both AII- and PDGF-stimulated MAP kinase activation substantially reduced and this correlated with the virtual loss of both MEK and c-Raf-1 activity in response to both agents. The differential inhibition of MAP kinase activation by forskolin was not due to specific activation of A-Raf by PDGF; both PDGF and AII stimulated A-Raf kinase and this activity was strongly inhibited by forskolin. These results suggest that the efficacy of MEK activation determines the duration of MAP kinase activation and the susceptibility of MAP kinase activation to inhibition by different agents. The results also argue against the selective activation of A-Raf by PDGF as a mechanism to explain the differences in the kinetics of MAP kinase activity stimulated by AII and PDGF.

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