Activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) 1 and 2 is correlated to cell survival, but in some cases ERKs can act in signal transduction pathways leading to apoptosis. Treatment of mouse fibroblasts with 20 μM etoposide elicited a sustained phosphorylation of ERK 1/2, that increased until 24 h from the treatment in parallel with caspase activity. The inhibitor of ERK activation PD98059 abolished caspase activation, but caspase inhibition did not reduce ERK 1/2 phosphorylation, suggesting that ERK activation is placed upstream of caspases. Both ERK and caspase activation were blocked in cells depleted of polyamines by the ornithine decarboxylase inhibitor α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO). In etoposide-treated cells, DFMO also abolished phosphorylation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinases triggered by the drug. Polyamine replenishment with exogenous putrescine restored the ability of the cells to undergo caspase activation and ERK 1/2 phosphorylation in response to etoposide. Ornithine decarboxylase activity decreased after etoposide, indicating that DFMO exerts its effect by depleting cellular polyamines before induction of apoptosis. These results reveal a role for polyamines in the transduction of the death signal triggered by etoposide.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology