Copper-Induced Stimulation of Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase in Trout Hepatocytes: The Role of Reactive Oxygen Species, Ca2+, and Cell Energetics and the Impact of Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase Signaling on Apoptosis and Necrosis

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The present study investigated if copper (Cu) exposure of trout hepatocytes, which stimulates formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increases intracellular free Ca2+ (Ca2+i), leads to an activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), the mechanisms underlying this activation, and the role of ERK signaling in cell death. Cu stimulated a time- and dose-dependent increase of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK), and preventing the associated Ca2+ influx or radical formation diminished or inhibited ERK activation, respectively. Furthermore, Cu enhanced caspase 3/7 activity and necrosis, and both effects were inhibited by treatments diminishing radical production and by chelating extracellular Ca2+. In addition, ERK activity, and to a lesser extent caspase activity, was reduced by inhibiting mitochondrial ATP production, suggesting ATP dependence of the process. Inhibition of the ERK activator MEK, as well as of p38, significantly reduced caspase activation and necrosis, whereas c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibition diminished only caspase activity. Likewise, inhibition of MEK and p38, but not of JNK, prevented Cu-induced ROS production. In summary, we found that stimulation of ERK by Cu exposure of trout hepatocytes is dependent on radical formation and ATP, whereas Ca2+ only modulates ERK activity. At the same time, activated ERK, as well as p38, contributes to enhanced ROS formation, whereas JNK did not. All three mitogen-activated protein kinases appear to promote apoptotic cell death upon Cu exposure, and ERK and p38 also stimulate necrosis.

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