Because RBCs contain abundant ERK1/2, we predicted that ERK1/2 is functional in sickle (SS) RBCs and promotes adherence, a hallmark of SCD. ERK1/2 remained active in SS but not normal RBCs. β(2)-adrenergic receptor stimulation by epinephrine can enhance ERK1/2 activity only in SS RBCs via PKA- and tyrosine kinase p72(syk)-dependent pathways. ERK signaling is implicated in RBC ICAM-4 phosphorylation, promoting SS RBC adhesion to the endothelium. SS RBC adhesion and phosphorylation of both ERK and ICAM-4 all decreased with continued cell exposure to epinephrine, implying that activation of ICAM-4-mediated SS RBC adhesion is temporally associated with ERK1/2 activation. Furthermore, recombinant ERK2 phosphorylated α- and β-adducins and dematin at the ERK consensus motif.
Cytoskeletal protein 4.1 also showed dynamic phosphorylation but not at the ERK consensus motif.
These results demonstrate that ERK activation induces phosphorylation of cytoskeletal proteins and the adhesion molecule ICAM-4, promoting SS RBC adhesion to the endothelium. Thus, blocking RBC ERK1/2 activation, such as that promoted by catecholamine stress hormones, could ameliorate SCD pathophysiology.
Division of Hematology and Duke Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. zenna001 [at] mc.duke.edu
Blood. 2012 Feb;119(5):1217-27
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