ERK Signaling Is Essential for Macrophage Development

PLoS One. 2015 Oct 7;10(10):e0140064. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140064. eCollection 2015.


Macrophages depend on colony stimulating factor 1 (also known as M-CSF) for their growth and differentiation, but the requirements for intracellular signals that lead to macrophage differentiation and function remain unclear. M-CSF is known to activate ERK1 and ERK2, but the importance of this signaling pathway in macrophage development is unknown. In these studies, we characterized a novel model of Erk1(-/-) Erk2(flox/flox) Lyz2(Cre/Cre) mice in which the ERK2 isoform is deleted from macrophages in the background of global ERK1 deficiency. Cultures of M-CSF-stimulated bone marrow precursors from these mice yielded reduced numbers of macrophages. Whereas macrophages developing from M-CSF-stimulated bone marrow of Erk2(flox/flox) Lyz2(Cre/Cre) mice showed essentially complete loss of ERK2 expression, the reduced number of macrophages that develop from Erk1(-/-) Erk2(flox/flox) Lyz2(Cre/Cre) bone marrow show retention of ERK2 expression, indicating selective outgrowth of a small proportion of precursors in which Cre-mediated deletion failed to occur. The bone marrow of Erk1(-/-) Erk2(flox/flox) Lyz2(Cre/Cre) mice was enriched for CD11b+ myeloid cells, CD11b(hi) Gr-1(hi) neutrophils, Lin- c-Kit+ Sca-1+ hematopoietic stem cells, and Lin- c-Kit+ CD34+ CD16/32+ granulocyte-macrophage progenitors. Culture of bone marrow Lin- cells under myeloid-stimulating conditions yielded reduced numbers of monocytes. Collectively, these data indicate that the defect in production of macrophages is not due to a reduced number of progenitors, but rather due to reduced ability of progenitors to proliferate and produce macrophages in response to M-CSF-triggered ERK signaling. Macrophages from Erk1(-/-) Erk2(flox/flox) Lyz2(Cre/Cre) bone marrow showed reduced induction of M-CSF-regulated genes that depend on the ERK pathway for their expression. These data demonstrate that ERK1/ERK2 play a critical role in driving M-CSF-dependent proliferation of bone marrow progenitors for production of macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Granulocytes / cytology
  • Granulocytes / metabolism
  • Hematopoiesis
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism*
  • Monocytes / metabolism


  • Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3