Establishment of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 bistability and sustained activation through Sprouty 2 and its relevance for epithelial function.

Liu W, Tundwal K, Liang Q, Goplen N, Rozario S, Quayum N, Gorska M, Wenzel S, Balzar S, Alam R
Source: Nat Cell Biol
Publication Date: (2010)
Issue: 30(7): 1783-99
Cells used in publication:
Epithelial, Small Airway, human (SAEC)
Species: human
Tissue Origin: lung
Our objective was to establish an experimental model of a self-sustained and bistable extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signaling process. A single stimulation of cells with cytokines causes rapid ERK1/2 activation, which returns to baseline in 4 h. Repeated stimulation leads to sustained activation of ERK1/2 but not Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK), p38, or STAT6. The ERK1/2 activation lasts for 3 to 7 days and depends upon a positive-feedback mechanism involving Sprouty 2. Overexpression of Sprouty 2 induces, and its genetic deletion abrogates, ERK1/2 bistability. Sprouty 2 directly activates Fyn kinase, which then induces ERK1/2 activation. A genome-wide microarray analysis shows that the bistable phospho-ERK1/2 (pERK1/2) does not induce a high level of gene transcription. This is due to its nuclear exclusion and compartmentalization to Rab5+ endosomes. Cells with sustained endosomal pERK1/2 manifest resistance against growth factor withdrawal-induced cell death. They are primed for heightened cytokine production. Epithelial cells from cases of human asthma and from a mouse model of chronic asthma manifest increased pERK1/2, which is associated with Rab5+ endosomes. The increase in pERK1/2 was associated with a simultaneous increase in Sprouty 2 expression in these tissues. Thus, we have developed a cellular model of sustained ERK1/2 activation, which may provide a mechanistic understanding of self-sustained biological processes in chronic illnesses such as asthma.