The differentiation-inducing factor-1 (DIF-1) is a signal molecule that induces stalk cell differentiation in the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. In addition, DIF-1 is a potent antileukemic agent that induces growth arrest in K562 cells. In this study, we investigated the mechanism of action of DIF-1 in K562 cells in the light of cell-cycle regulators such as cyclins, retinoblastoma protein (pRb), and the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family. DIF-1 down-regulated cyclins D/E and a phosphorylated form of pRb (p-pRb), and thereby induced G1 arrest of the cell cycle. DIF-1 inactivated the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in a biphasic manner but did not affect the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) or p38 MAPK. The MEK (MAPK kinase) inhibitor, U0126, which has been shown to induce growth arrest, inactivated ERK and down-regulated cyclins D and E. Although DIF-1 activated the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI-3K)/Akt pathway, neither wortmannin nor 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one (LY294002; PI-3K inhibitors) cancelled DIF-1-induced growth arrest. The present results suggest that ERK inactivation may be involved in DIF-1-induced growth arrest and that PI-3K activity is not required for DIF-1-induced growth arrest in K562 cells.
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