Cytoplasmic retention of peroxide-activated ERK provides survival in primary cultures of rat hepatocytes


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are implicated in tissue damage causing primary hepatic dysfunction following ischemia/reperfusion injury and during inflammatory liver diseases. A potential role of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) as a mediator of survival signals during oxidative stress was investigated in primary cultures of hepatocytes exposed to ROS. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) induced a dose-dependent activation of ERK, which was dependent on MEK activation. The ERK activation pattern was transient compared with the ERK activation seen after stimulation with epidermal growth factor (EGF). Nuclear accumulation of ERK was found after EGF stimulation, but not after H2O2 exposure. A slow import/rapid export mechanism was excluded through the use of leptomycin B, an inhibitor of nuclear export sequence–dependent nuclear export. Reduced survival of hepatocytes during ROS exposure was observed when ERK activation was inhibited. Ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK), a cytoplasmic ERK substrate involved in cell survival, was activated and located in the nucleus of H2O2-exposed hepatocytes. The activation was abolished when ERK was inhibited with U0126. In conclusion, our results indicate that activity of ERK in the cytoplasm is important for survival during oxidative stress in hepatocytes and that RSK is activated downstream of ERK. Supplementary material for this article can be found on the HEPATOLOGY website ( (HEPATOLOGY 2005;42:200–207.)