Characteristic ERK1/2 signaling dynamics distinguishes necroptosis from apoptosis

iScience. 2021 Sep 2;24(9):103074. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.103074. eCollection 2021 Sep 24.


ERK1/2 involvement in cell death remains unclear, although many studies have demonstrated the importance of ERK1/2 dynamics in determining cellular responses. To untangle how ERK1/2 contributes to two cell death programs, we investigated ERK1/2 signaling dynamics during hFasL-induced apoptosis and TNF-induced necroptosis in L929 cells. We observed that ERK1/2 inhibition sensitizes cells to apoptosis while delaying necroptosis. By monitoring ERK1/2 activity by live-cell imaging using an improved ERK1/2 biosensor (EKAR4.0), we reported differential ERK1/2 signaling dynamics between cell survival, apoptosis, and necroptosis. We also decrypted a temporally shifted amplitude- and frequency-modulated (AM/FM) ERK1/2 activity profile in necroptosis versus apoptosis. ERK1/2 inhibition, which disrupted ERK1/2 signaling dynamics, prevented TNF and IL-6 gene expression increase during TNF-induced necroptosis. Using an inducible cell line for activated MLKL, the final executioner of necroptosis, we showed ERK1/2 and its distinctive necroptotic ERK1/2 activity dynamics to be positioned downstream of MLKL.

Keywords: Biological sciences; Biomolecular engineering; Cell biology.