Role of transcription factor activator protein 1 (AP1) in epidermal growth factor-mediated protection against apoptosis induced by a DNA-damaging agent

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We investigated the survival signals of epidermal growth factor (EGF) in human gastric adenocarcinoma cell line TMK-1. Treatment of TMK-1 cells with adriamycin (ADR) caused apoptosis and apoptosis-related reactions such as the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria and the activation of caspase 9. However, EGF treatment greatly reduced the ADR-induced apoptosis as well as these reactions. We previously reported that hepatocyte growth factor transmitted protective signals against ADR-induced apoptosis by causing activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3′-OH kinase (PtdIns3-K)/Akt signaling pathway in human epithelial cell line MKN74 [Takeuchi K & Ito F (2004) J Biol Chem279, 892–900]. However, PtdIns3-K/Akt signaling did not mediate the antiapoptotic action of EGF in TMK-1 cells. EGF increased the expression of the Bcl-XL protein, an antiapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family, but not that of other anti (Bcl-2) or proapoptotic (Bad and Bax) protein members. Expression of the c-Fos and c-Jun, components of activator protein 1 (AP1), which are known to regulate bcl-XL gene transcription, were increased in response to EGF. Pretreatment of the cells with PD98059, an inhibitor of MAP kinase kinase, inhibited the EGF-induced c-Fos and c-Jun expression, AP1 DNA binding, Bcl-XL expression, and the resistance against ADR-induced apoptosis, suggesting that EGF transmitted the antiapoptotic signal in such a way that it activated AP1 via a MAP kinase signaling pathway. TMK-1 cells stably transfected with TAM67, c-Jun dominant-negative mutant, did not display EGF-induced Bcl-XL expression or resistance against ADR-induced apoptosis. These results indicate that AP1-mediated upregulation of Bcl-XL expression is critical for protection of TMK-1 cells against ADR-induced apoptosis.

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