Apoptosis suppression by Raf-1 and MEK1 requires MEK- and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-dependent signals

A von Gise, P Lorenz, C Wellbrock, B Hemmings, F Berberich-Siebelt, U R Rapp, J Troppmair
Molecular and Cellular Biology 2001, 21 (7): 2324-36
Two Ras effector pathways leading to the activation of Raf-1 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) have been implicated in the survival signaling by the interleukin 3 (IL-3) receptor. Analysis of apoptosis suppression by Raf-1 demonstrated the requirement for mitochondrial translocation of the kinase in this process. This could be achieved either by overexpression of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 or by targeting Raf-1 to the mitochondria via fusion to the mitochondrial protein Mas p70. Mitochondrially active Raf-1 is unable to activate extracellular signal-related kinase 1 (ERK1) and ERK2 but suppresses cell death by inactivating the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family member BAD. However, genetic and biochemical data also have suggested a role for the Raf-1 effector module MEK-ERK in apoptosis suppression. We thus tested for MEK requirement in cell survival signaling using the interleukin 3 (IL-3)-dependent cell line 32D. MEK is essential for survival and growth in the presence of IL-3. Upon growth factor withdrawal the expression of constitutively active MEK1 mutants significantly delays the onset of apoptosis, whereas the presence of a dominant negative mutant accelerates cell death. Survival signaling by MEK most likely results from the activation of ERKs since expression of a constitutively active form of ERK2 was as effective in protecting NIH 3T3 fibroblasts against doxorubicin-induced cell death as oncogenic MEK. The survival effect of activated MEK in 32D cells is achieved by both MEK- and PI3K-dependent mechanisms and results in the activation of PI3K and in the phosphorylation of AKT. MEK and PI3K dependence is also observed in 32D cells protected from apoptosis by oncogenic Raf-1. Additionally, we also could extend these findings to the IL-3-dependent pro-B-cell line BaF3, suggesting that recruitment of MEK is a common mechanism for survival signaling by activated Raf. Requirement for the PI3K effector AKT in this process is further demonstrated by the inhibitory effect of a dominant negative AKT mutant on Raf-1-induced cell survival. Moreover, a constitutively active form of AKT synergizes with Raf-1 in apoptosis suppression. In summary these data strongly suggest a Raf effector pathway for cell survival that is mediated by MEK and AKT.

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