A death-promoting role for extracellular signal-regulated kinase

Shougang Zhuang, Rick G. Schnellmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

320 Scopus citations


Extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), which are members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase superfamily, have been well characterized and are known to be involved in cell survival; however, recent evidence suggests that the activation of ERK1/2 also contributes to cell death in some cell types and organs under certain conditions. For example, ERK1/2 is activated in neuronal and renal epithelial cells upon exposure to oxidative stress and toxicants and deprivation of growth factors, and inhibition of the ERK pathway blocks apoptosis. ERK activation also occurs in animal models of ischemia- and trauma-induced brain injury and cisplatin-induced renal injury, and inactivation of ERK reduces the extent of tissue damage. In some studies, ERK has been implicated in apoptotic events upstream of mitochondrial cytochrome c release, whereas other studies have suggested the converse that ERK acts downstream of mitochondrial events and upstream of caspase-3 activation. ERK also can contribute to cell death through the suppression of the antiapoptotic signaling molecule Akt. Here we summarize the evidence and mechanism of ERK-induced apoptosis in both cell culture and in animal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)991-997
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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