Distinct Signaling Pathways Regulate Transformation and Inhibition of Skeletal Muscle Differentiation by Oncogenic Ras

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Expression of oncogenic Ras in 23A2 skeletal myoblasts is sufficient to induce both a transformed phenotype and a differentiation-defective phenotype, but the signaling pathways activated by oncogenic Ras in these cells and their respective contribution to each phenotype have not been explored. In this study, we investigated MAP kinase activity in control 23A2 myoblasts and in 23A2 myoblasts rendered differentiation-defective by the stable expression of an oncogenic (G12V)Ha-ras gene (Ras9 cells). The MAP kinase immunoprecipitated from Ras9 cells was 30-40% more active than that from control 23A2 cells. To establish if this elevated MAP kinase activity is essential to the maintenance of the oncogenic Ras-induced phenotype, we utilized the selective MAP kinase kinase 1 (MEK1) inhibitor, PD 098059. PD 098059 decreased the MAP kinase activity in Ras9 cells to the level found in 23A2 cells. PD 098059 did not affect the ability of 23A2 myoblasts to differentiate. PD 098059 reverted the transformed morphology of Ras9 cells but did not restore the ability of these cells to express the muscle-specific myosin heavy chain gene or to form muscle fibers. Treatment with PD 098059 also did not affect the ability of oncogenic Ha-Ras to establish a non-myogenic phenotype in C3H10T1/2 cells co-expressing MyoD. These results demonstrate that the activation of MAP kinase is necessary for the transformed morphology of Ras9 cells but is not required by oncogenic Ras to establish or to maintain a differentiation-defective phenotype. While these data do not rule out the possibility that constitutive signaling by MEK1 or MAP kinase could inhibit myoblast differentiation, they clearly demonstrate that other pathways activated by oncogenic Ras are sufficient to inhibit differentiation.


This work was supported by NIH grant GM 49652awarded to AW and NSF grant IBN 9317640 awarded toEJT. MBR is supported by NIH predoctoral training grantT32 CA09634.