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The role of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal transduction pathway in the proliferation of mammalian cells has been well established. However, there are relatively few reports concerning cell differentiation being mediated by MAPK. The effect of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) on cell differentiation and signal transduction in a human myeloid leukemia cell line, TF-1a, was investigated. When TF-1a cells were treated with 1026, 1027, 1028, and 109 M PMA for 24 h, they underwent 98, 93, 91, and 51% macrophage-like differentiation, respectively. PMA treatment rapidly (10 min) induced phosphorylation of MAPK kinase (MEK and p44/42 MAPK), which persisted for at least 24 h. p44/42 MAPK immunoprecipitates from lysates of PMA-treated cells had increased ability to phosphorylate the transcription factor Elk-1. This is important because phosphorylated Elk-1 can be considered an “end-product” of the MAPK pathway. In contrast, treatment of TF-1a cells with granulocyte/macrophage-colony stimulating factor induced only transient activation of MEK and p44/42 MAPK (10–20 min) and an increase (;50%) in cell proliferation, without any change in cellular differentiation. These results suggest that macrophage-like differentiation may be dependent on prolonged activation of the MAPK pathway. Additional support for this conclusion was obtained from\ experiments showing that treatment of TF-1a cells with antisense oligonucleotides for MEK1 coding sequences prior to adding PMA inhibited macrophage-like
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