Role of ERK activation in growth and erythroid differentiation of K562 cells

Wilhelm Woessmann, Nahid F Mivechi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Inhibition of signaling through Ras in BCR-ABL-positive pluripotent K562 cells leads to apoptosis and spontaneous differentiation. However, Ras-induced activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK has been suggested to play a critical role in either growth or differentiation in different model systems. We studied the role of ERK activation in the growth-promoting and anti-apoptotic effect of Ras and its involvement in hemin-induced nonterminal erythroid differentiation using the BCR-ABL-positive K562 cell line as a model. K562 cells were stably transfected with ERK1 or the dominant inhibitory mutant of ERK1 (ERK1-KR). Overexpression of ERK1-KR inhibited cell growth with an approximately fourfold increase in doubling time and induced apoptosis in K562 cells. Incubation with the MEK1 inhibitor UO126 inhibited cell growth and induced apoptosis in K562 cells in a dose-dependent manner as well. In the presence of exogenously added hemin, K562 cells differentiate into erythroblasts, as indicated by the production of large amounts of fetal hemoglobin. We examined the activation of MAP kinases during hemin-induced differentiation. The ERK1 and 2 activity increased within 2 h post hemin treatment and remained elevated for 24-48 h. During this time, fetal hemoglobin synthesis also increases from 0.8 to 10 pg/cell. There was no activation of JNK or p38 protein kinases. The hemin-induced accumulation of hemoglobin was inhibited in ERK1-KR overexpressing cells and was enhanced in the wild-type ERK1 transfectants. Our results suggest that ERK activation is involved in both growth and hemin-induced erythroid differentiation in the BCR-ABL-positive K562 cell line.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-200
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2001


  • ERK
  • Erythroid differentiation
  • K562
  • MAPK
  • Proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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