Rat-1 fibroblasts were used to study the role of the sustained activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) in lysophosphatidic acid (LPA)-stimulated mitogenic signalling. Mitogenic doses of LPA, like serum, stimulated biphasic, sustained, ERK activation that persisted towards the G1/S boundary. The EC50 for LPA-stimulated ERK activation after 10 min, the time of peak response, was 2 orders of magnitude to the left of that for the sustained response after 3 h or that for DNA synthesis after 22 h, with the result that non-mitogenic doses stimulated a maximal peak response but no second phase. To complement these studies, we examined the role of different signal pathways in regulating the sustained and acute phases of ERK activation using defined biochemical inhibitors and mimetics. Activation of protein kinase C and Ca2+ fluxes played a minor and transient role in regulation of ERK1 activity by LPA in Rat-1 cells. Sustained ERK1 activation stimulated by LPA was completely inhibited by pertussis toxin, whereas the early peak response was only partly affected; this is correlated with the specific inhibition of LPA-stimulated DNA synthesis by pertussis toxin. The selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor herbimycin A completely inhibited sustained ERK1 activation by LPA but, again, the early phase of the response was only partially inhibited. In addition, low doses of staurosporine inhibited ERK1 activation by LPA. The effects of herbimycin A and staurosporine were selective for the response to LPA but did not affect that to epidermal growth factor. The results suggest a strong correlation between sustained ERK1 activation and DNA synthesis in LPA-stimulated Rat-1 cells. Furthermore, the two discrete phases of ERK activation by LPA are regulated by a combination of at least two different signalling pathways; the sustained activation of ERK1 in Rat-1 cells proceeds via a Gi- or Go-mediated pathway which may also involve a tyrosine kinase.

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