Serum and growth factors activate both the canonical extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 pathway and the ERK5/big mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 (BMK) 1 pathway. Pharmacological inhibition of the ERK1/2 pathway using PD98059 and U0126 prevents cyclin D1 expression and inhibits cell proliferation, arguing that the ERK1/2 pathway is rate limiting for cell-cycle re-entry. However, both PD98059 and U0126 also inhibit the ERK5/BMK1 pathway, raising the possibility that the anti-proliferative effect of such drugs may be due to inhibition of ERK5 or both pathways. Here we characterize the effect of the novel mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor, PD184352, on the ERK1/2 and ERK5 pathways in the Chinese hamster fibroblast cell line CCl39. In quiescent cells, serum-stimulated ERK1 activity was completely inhibited by PD184352 with an IC50 below 1μM, whereas ERK5 activation was unaffected even at 20μM. Serum-stimulated DNA synthesis and cyclin D1 expression was inhibited by low doses of PD184352, which abolished ERK1 activity but had no effect on ERK5. Similarly, in cycling cells PD184352 caused a dose-dependent G1 arrest and inhibition of cyclin D1 expression at low doses, which inhibited ERK1 but were without effect on ERK5. These results indicate that the anti-proliferative effect of PD184352 is due to inhibition of the classical ERK1/2 pathway and does not require inhibition of the ERK5 pathway.
Abbreviations used: BMK1, big MAPK 1; EGF, epidermal growth factor; ERK, extracellular signal-regulated kinase; FBS, foetal bovine serum; GST, glutathione S-transferase; MAPK, mitogen-activated protein kinase; MEF2, myocyte enhancer factor-2; MEK, MAPK/ERK kinase.