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Periodic mechanical stress activates EGFR-dependent Rac1 mitogenic signals in rat nucleus pulpous cells via ERK1/2

Gao, Gongming, Shen, Nan, Jiang, Xuefeng, Sun, Huiqing, Xu, Nanwei, Zhou, Dong, Nong, Luming, Ren, Kewei
Biochemical and biophysical research communications 2016 v.469 pp. 723-730
cell culture, cell proliferation, mechanical stress, phosphorylation, rats, signal transduction
The mitogenic effects of periodic mechanical stress on nucleus pulpous cells have been studied extensively but the mechanisms whereby nucleus pulpous cells sense and respond to mechanical stimulation remain a matter of debate. We explored this question by performing cell culture experiments in our self-developed periodic stress field and perfusion culture system. Under periodic mechanical stress, rat nucleus pulpous cell proliferation was significantly increased (p < 0.05 for each) and was associated with increases in the phosphorylation and activation of EGFR, Rac1, and ERK1/2 (p < 0.05 for each). Pretreatment with the ERK1/2 selective inhibitor PD98059 reduced periodic mechanical stress-induced nucleus pulpous cell proliferation (p < 0.05 for each), while the activation levels of EGFR and Rac1 were not inhibited. Proliferation and phosphorylation of ERK1/2 were inhibited after pretreatment with the Rac1 inhibitor NSC23766 in nucleus pulpous cells in response to periodic mechanical stress (p < 0.05 for each), while the phosphorylation site of EGFR was not affected. Inhibition of EGFR activity with AG1478 abrogated nucleus pulpous cell proliferation (p < 0.05 for each) and attenuated Rac1 and ERK1/2 activation in nucleus pulpous cells subjected to periodic mechanical stress (p < 0.05 for each). These findings suggest that periodic mechanical stress promotes nucleus pulpous cell proliferation in part through the EGFR-Rac1-ERK1/2 signaling pathway, which links these three important signaling molecules into a mitogenic cascade.