We have shown that Fv2, the Friend virus susceptibility 2 locus, encodes a naturally occurring aminoterminally truncated form of the STK receptor tyrosine kinase (Sf-Stk). Sf-Stk appears to interact with the viral glycoprotein gp55 and drive erythropoietin (Epo)-independent expansion of Friend virus-infected erythroblasts. Presumably, Sf-Stk provides signals that cooperate with EpoR signaling to induce the polyclonal expansion of infected cells. In this report, we show that macrophage-stimulating protein (MSP), the ligand for full-length STK, can also cooperate with Epo to enhance burst-forming units-erythroid (BFU-E) formation. To evaluate the signals induced by MSP/STK in primary erythroid progenitor cells, we adapted a method for the expansion of murine bone marrow mononuclear cells. The expanded progenitor cells express STK and respond to MSP in a colony assay. Furthermore, we demonstrate that low doses of MSP and Epo stimulation of the expanded cells cooperate to induce the phosphorylation of MAP kinase. Using the MEK inhibitor PD98059, we show that the activation of ERK is required for the enhanced BFU-E formation in response to MSP. These findings suggest that MSP has the ability to enhance erythroid colony formation in response to Epo, and that this response is dependent on the ability of MSP to induce the MAP kinase pathway.
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