B-Raf inhibits programmed cell death downstream of cytochrome c release from mitochondria by activating the MEK/Erk pathway

P Erhardt, E J Schremser, G M Cooper
Molecular and Cellular Biology 1999, 19 (8): 5308-15
Growth factor-dependent kinases, such as phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) and Raf kinases, have been implicated in the suppression of apoptosis. We have recently established Rat-1 fibroblast cell lines overexpressing B-Raf, leading to activation of the MEK/Erk mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. Overexpression of B-Raf confers resistance to apoptosis induced by growth factor withdrawal or PI 3-kinase inhibition. This is accompanied by constitutive activation of Erk without effects on the PI 3-kinase/Akt pathway. The activity of MEK is essential for cell survival mediated by B-Raf overexpression, since either treatment with the specific MEK inhibitor PD98059 or expression of a dominant inhibitory MEK mutant blocks the antiapoptotic activity of B-Raf. Activation of MEK is not only necessary but also sufficient for cell survival because overexpression of constitutively activated MEK, Ras, or Raf-1, like B-Raf, prevents apoptosis after growth factor deprivation. Overexpression of B-Raf did not interfere with the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria after growth factor deprivation. However, the addition of cytochrome c to cytosols of cells overexpressing B-Raf failed to induce caspase activation. It thus appears that the B-Raf/MEK/Erk pathway confers protection against apoptosis at the level of cytosolic caspase activation, downstream of the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria.

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