Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 5 (ERK5) is activated in response to environmental stress and growth factors. Gene ablation of Erk5 in mice is embryonically lethal as a result of disruption of cardiovascular development and vascular integrity. We investigated vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-mediated ERK5 activation in primary human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMECs) undergoing proliferation on a gelatin matrix, and tubular morphogenesis within a collagen gel matrix. VEGF induced sustained ERK5 activation on both matrices. However, manipulation of ERK5 activity by siRNA-mediated gene silencing disrupted tubular morphogenesis without impacting proliferation. Overexpression of constitutively active MEK5 and ERK5 stimulated tubular morphogenesis in the absence of VEGF. Analysis of intracellular signalling revealed that ERK5 regulated AKT phosphorylation. On a collagen gel, ERK5 regulated VEGF-mediated phosphorylation of the pro-apoptotic protein BAD and increased expression of the anti-apoptotic protein BCL2, resulting in decreased caspase-3 activity and apoptosis suppression. Our findings suggest that ERK5 is required for AKT phosphorylation and cell survival and is crucial for endothelial cell differentiation in response to VEGF.
Bibliographical note© 2010. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Non-commercial use
- signal transduction