When exposed to PMA, the erythroblastic cell line TF-1 and its cytokine-independent variant D2 cells can be induced to undergo differentiation and apoptosis. In this study we investigated the mechanism responsible for the differential responses to PMA induction and show that serum present in the medium has a major role in promoting PMA-induced apoptosis in TF-1 and D2 cells. Interestingly, lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) could replace serum to co-operate with PMA in inducing apoptosis via the Rho-dependent pathway. The expression of a constitutively active form of RhoA also increased PMA-induced apoptosis. However, by inhibiting adhesion, most cells underwent PMA-induced apoptosis even in the absence of LPA or serum, indicating that adhesion is required for PMA-induced differentiation. Given that LPA could prevent adhesion for cells maintained in the serum-free medium, here we propose that RhoA has a switching role in determining whether TF-1 and D2 cells undergo differentiation or apoptosis in response to PMA, by modulating cell adhesion.

Abbreviations used: FBS, fetal bovine serum; GM-CSF, granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor; GFP, green fluorescent protein; GST, glutathione S-transferase; LPA, lysophosphatidic acid; PARP, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase; PKC, protein kinase C; RBD, Rho-binding domain.

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Author notes


These authors made equal contributions to the work.