Mitogen-activated protein kinase dynamics during the meiotic G2/MI transition of mouse spermatocytes.

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Biol Reprod 2004 Aug; 71(2):570-8.


Cellular and genetic approaches were used to investigate the requirements for activation during spermatogenesis of the extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERKs), more commonly known as the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). The MAPKS and their activating kinases, the MEKs, are expressed in specific developmental patterns. The MAPKs and MEK2 are expressed in all premeiotic germ cells and spermatocytes, while MEK1 is not expressed abundantly in pachytene spermatocytes. Phosphorylated (active) variants of these kinases are diminished in pachytene spermatocytes. Treatment of pachytene spermatocytes with okadaic acid (OA), to induce transition from meiotic prophase to metaphase I (G2/MI), resulted in phosphorylation and enzymatic activation of ERK1/2. However, U0126, an inhibitor of the ERK-activating kinases, MEK1/2, did not inhibit OA-induced MAPK activation or chromosome condensation. Analysis of spermatocytes lacking MOS, a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase responsible for MEK and MAPK activation, revealed that MOS is not required for OA-induced activation of the MAPKs. OA-induced MAPK activation was inhibited by butyrolactone I, an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases 1 and 2 (CDK1, CDK2); thus, these kinases may regulate MAPK activity. Additionally, spermatocytes lacking CDC25C condensed bivalent chromosomes and activated both MPF and MAPKs in response to OA treatment; therefore, there is a CDC25C-independent pathway for MPF and MAPK activation. These studies reveal that spermatocytes do not require either MOS or CDC25C for onset of the meiotic division phase or for activation of MPF and the MAPKs, thus implicating a novel pathway for activation of the ERK1/2 MAPKs in spermatocytes.