Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) plays a central role in regulating cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. We previously found that 2-(2-mercaptoethanol)-3-methyl-1,4-napthoquinone or Compound 5 (Cpd 5), is a Cdc25A protein phosphatase inhibitor and causes prolonged, strong ERK phosphorylation which is triggered by epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation. We now report that Cpd 5 can directly cause ERK phosphorylation by inhibiting Cdc25A activity independently of the EGFR pathway. We found that Cdc25A physically interacted with and de-phosphorylated phospho-ERK both in vitro and in cell culture. Inhibition of Cdc25A activity by Cpd 5 resulted in ERK hyper-phosphorylation. Transfection of Hep3B human hepatoma cells with inactive Cdc25A mutant enhanced Cpd 5 action on ERK phosphorylation, whereas over-expression of Cdc25A attenuated this Cpd 5 action. Furthermore, endogenous Cdc25A knock-down by Cdc25A siRNA resulted in a constitutive-like ERK phosphorylation and Cpd 5 treatment further enhanced it. In EGFR-devoid NR6 fibroblasts and MEK (ERK kinase) mutated MCF7 cells, Cpd 5 treatment also resulted in ERK phosphorylation, providing support for the idea that Cpd 5 can directly act on ERK phosphorylation by inhibiting Cdc25A activity. These data suggest that phospho-ERK is likely another Cdc25A substrate, and Cpd 5-caused ERK phosphorylation is probably regulated by both EGFR-dependent and EGFR-independent pathways.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.