Role of mitogen-activated protein kinases in activation-induced apoptosis of T cells

Immunology. 1999 May;97(1):26-35. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2567.1999.00756.x.


A member of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase family, Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), has been implicated in regulating apoptosis in various cell types. We have investigated the requirement for another type of MAP kinase, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) in activation-induced cell death (AICD) of T cells. AICD is the process by which recently activated T cells undergo apoptosis when restimulated through the T-cell antigen receptor. Here we show that both JNK and ERK are activated rapidly upon T-cell receptor (TCR) ligation prior to the onset of AICD. A chemical inhibitor of ERK activation, PD 098059, inhibits ERK activation and apoptosis, while JNK activation is not inhibited. This suggests that JNK activation is not sufficient for apoptosis. TCR cross-linking induces expression of the apoptosis-inducing factor, Fas ligand (FasL), and its expression correlates with ERK activation. In addition, apoptosis induced by direct ligation of the Fas receptor by anti-Fas antibody is not associated with ERK activation and is not inhibited by PD 098059. These data suggest that ERK activation is an early event during T-cell apoptosis induced by antigen-receptor ligation, and is not involved in apoptosis per se but in the expression of FasL. MAP kinase family members may be similarly involved in inducing apoptosis signals in other cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • CD3 Complex / immunology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 1
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • fas Receptor / immunology


  • CD3 Complex
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • FASLG protein, human
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Fasl protein, mouse
  • Flavonoids
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • fas Receptor
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 1
  • MAP2K1 protein, human
  • Map2k1 protein, mouse
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • 2-(2-amino-3-methoxyphenyl)-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one