ERK and cell death: Mechanisms of ERK-induced cell death – apoptosis, autophagy and senescence


S. Cagnol, Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
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The Ras/Raf/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling pathway plays a crucial role in almost all cell functions and therefore requires exquisite control of its spatiotemporal activity. Depending on the cell type and stimulus, ERK activity will mediate different antiproliferative events, such as apoptosis, autophagy and senescence in vitro and in vivo. ERK activity can promote either intrinsic or extrinsic apoptotic pathways by induction of mitochondrial cytochrome c release or caspase-8 activation, permanent cell cycle arrest or autophagic vacuolization. These unusual effects require sustained ERK activity in specific subcellular compartments and could depend on the presence of reactive oxygen species. We will summarize the mechanisms involved in Ras/Raf/ERK antiproliferative functions.