Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.413, No.2, 282-287, 2011
Loss of DLK expression in WI-38 human diploid fibroblasts induces a senescent-like proliferation arrest
DLK, a serine/threonine kinase that functions as an upstream activator of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways, has been shown to play a role in development, cell differentiation, apoptosis and neuronal response to injury. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that DLK may also be required for cell proliferation, although little is known about its specific functions. To start addressing this issue, we studied how DLK expression is modulated during cell cycle progression and what effect DLK depletion has on cell proliferation in WI-38 fibroblasts. Our results indicate that DLK protein levels are low in serum-starved cells, but that serum addition markedly stimulated it. Moreover, RNA interference experiments demonstrate that DLK is required for ERK activity, expression of the cell cycle regulator cyclin D1 and proliferation of WI-38 cells. DLK-depleted cells also show a senescent phenotype as revealed by senescence-associated galactosidase activity and up-regulation of the senescence pathway proteins p53 and p21. Consistent with a role for p53 in this response, inhibition of p53 expression by RNA interference significantly alleviated senescence induced by DLK knockdown. Together, these findings indicate that DLK participates in cell proliferation and/or survival, at least in part, by modulating the expression of cell cycle regulatory proteins. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.