Two Chinese herb-derived small molecule telomerase activators, astragaloside IV (AG-IV) and cycloastragenol (CAG), have recently been shown to improve the proliferative response of CD8+ T lymphocytes from HIV-infected patients by upregulating telomerase activity. Here, we examined the signaling mechanism of AG-IV and CAG. Telomerase activity in human embryonic kidney HEK293 fibroblasts was increased upon treatment with increasing concentrations of AG-IV or CAG. Both compounds induced the phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) in a time- and dose-dependent manner in HEK293 cells and HEK-neo keratinocytes. AG-IV and CAG also stimulated ERK phosphorylation in other cell lines of lung, brain, mammary, endothelial, and hematopoietic origins. Use of selective inhibitors and dominant negative mutants revealed the involvement of c-Src, MEK (ERK kinase), and epidermal growth factor receptor in CAG-induced ERK phosphorylation. Our data indicate that AG-IV and CAG may exert their cellular effects through the activation of the Src/MEK/ERK pathway.
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.