Cells derived from the inner medullary collecting duct undergo in vitro branching tubulogenesis to both the c-met receptor ligand hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) as well as epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor ligands. In contrast, many other cultured renal epithelial cells respond in this manner only to HGF, suggesting that these two receptors may use independent signaling pathways during morphogenesis. We have therefore compared the signaling pathways for mIMCD-3 cell morphogenesis in response to EGF and HGF. Inhibition of the p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway with the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MKK1) inhibitor PD98059 (50 microm) markedly inhibits HGF-induced cell migration with only partial inhibition of EGF-induced cell motility. Similarly, HGF-dependent, but not EGF-dependent, branching morphogenesis was more greatly inhibited by the MKK1 inhibitor. Examination of EGF-stimulated cells demonstrated that extracellular-regulated kinase 5 (ERK5) was activated in response to EGF but not HGF, and that activation of ERK5 was only 60% inhibited by 50 microm PD98059. In contrast, the MKK inhibitor U0126 markedly inhibited both ERK1/2 and ERK5 activation and completely prevented HGF- and EGF-dependent migration and branching process formation. Expression of dominant negative ERK5 (dnBMK1) likewise inhibited EGF-dependent branching process formation, but did not affect HGF-dependent branching process formation. Our results indicate that activation of the ERK1/ERK2 signaling pathway is critical for HGF-induced cell motility/morphogenesis in mIMCD-3 cells, whereas ERK5 appears to be required for EGF-dependent morphogenesis.
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