Two closely related human members of chitinase-like family, CHI3L1 and CHI3L2, activate ERK1/2 in 293 and U373 cells but have the different influence on cell proliferation

Int J Biol Sci. 2012;8(1):39-48. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.8.39. Epub 2011 Nov 16.


The activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1/2) has been associated with specific outcomes. Sustained activation of ERK1/2 by nerve growth factor (NGF) is associated with translocation of ERKs to the nucleus of PC12 cells and precedes their differentiation into sympathetic-like neurons whereas transient activation by epidermal growth factor (EGF) leads to cell proliferation. It was demonstrated that different growth factors initiating the same cellular signaling pathways may lead to the different cell destiny, either to proliferation or to the inhibition of mitogenesis and apoptosis. Thus, further investigation on kinetic differences in activation of certain signal cascades in different cell types by biologically different agents are necessary for understanding the mechanisms as to how cells make a choice between proliferation and differentiation.It was reported that chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1) protein promotes the growth of human synovial cells as well as skin and fetal lung fibroblasts similarly to insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1). Both are involved in mediating the mitogenic response through the signal-regulated kinases ERK1/2. In addition, CHI3L1 which is highly expressed in different tumors including glioblastomas possesses oncogenic properties. As we found earlier, chitinase 3-like 2 (CHI3L2) most closely related to human CHI3L1 also showed increased expression in glial tumors at both the RNA and protein levels and stimulated the activation of the MAPK pathway through phosphorylation of ERK1/2 in 293 and U87 MG cells. The work described here demonstrates the influence of CHI3L2 and CHI3L1 on the duration of MAPK cellular signaling and phosphorylated ERK1/2 translocation to the nucleus. In contrast to the activation of ERK1/2 phosphorylation by CHI3L1 that leads to a proliferative signal (similar to the EGF effect in PC12 cells), activation of ERK1/2 phosphorylation by CHI3L2 (similar to NGF) inhibits cell mitogenesis and proliferation.

Keywords: ERK1/2; HC gp-39; MAP kinase).; YKL-39) protein; YKL-40) protein; chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1; chitinase 3-like 2 (CHI3L2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / genetics
  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Adipokines / physiology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Butadienes / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Chitinases / genetics
  • Chitinases / metabolism
  • Chitinases / physiology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lectins / genetics
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Lectins / physiology*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Adipokines
  • Butadienes
  • CHI3L1 protein, human
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Lectins
  • Nitriles
  • U 0126
  • MAPK1 protein, human
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • CHI3L2 protein, human
  • Chitinases