The effects of EGF, TPA, UV radiation, okadaic acid and anisomycin on ERK and JNK/SAPK MAP kinase cascades have been compared with their ability to elicit histone H3/HMG-14 phosphorylation and induce c-fos and c-jun in C3H 10T1/2 cells. EGF and UV radiation activate both ERKs and JNK/SAPKs but to markedly different extents; EGF activates ERKs more strongly than JNK/SAPKs, whereas UV radiation activates JNK/SAPKs much more strongly than ERKs. Anisomycin and okadaic acid activate JNK/SAPKs but not ERKs, and conversely, TPA activates ERKs but not JNK/SAPKs. Nevertheless, all these agents elicit phosphorylation of ribosomal and pre-ribosomal S6, histone H3 and HMG-14, and the induction of c-fos and c-jun, showing that neither cascade is absolutely essential for these responses. We then analysed the relationship between ERKs, JNK/SAPKs and the transcription factors Elk-1 and c-Jun, implicated in controlling c-fos and c-jun, respectively. JNK/SAPKs bind to GST-cJun1-79, and ERKs, particularly ERK-2, to GST-Elk1(307–428); there is no cross-specificity of binding. Further, GST-Elk1(307–428) binds preferentially to active rather than inactive ERK-2. In vitro, JNK/SAPKs phosphorylate both GST-cJun1-79 and GST-Elk1(307–428), whereas ERKs phosphorylate GST-Elk1(307–428) but not GST-cJun1-79. Thus, neither ERKs nor JNK/SAPKs are absolutely essential for nuclear signalling and c-fos and c-jun induction. The data suggest either that activation of a single MAP kinase subtype is sufficient to elicit a complete nuclear response, or that other uncharacterised routes exist.

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