• TNF;
  • autophagy;
  • ERK 1/2;
  • U0126


The role of autophagy in cell death is under considerable debate. The process of autophagy has been shown to lead to either cell survival or cell death depending on cell type and stimulus. In the present study, we determined the contribution of ERK1/2 signalling to autophagy and cell death induced by tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF) in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Treatment of MCF-7 cells with TNF caused a time-dependent increase in ERK1/2 activity. There was an induction of autophagy and cleavage of caspase-7, -8, -9 and PARP. Pharmacological inhibition of ERK1/2 phosphorylation with U0126 or PD98059 resulted in a decrease in TNF-induced autophagy that was accompanied by an increase in cleavage of caspase-7, -8, -9 and PARP Furthermore, inhibition of ERK1/2 signalling resulted in decreased clonogenic capacity of MCF-7 cells. These data suggest that TNF-induces autophagy through ERK1/2 and that inhibition of autophagy increases cellular sensitivity to TNF.