Distribution of ERK1/2 and ERK3 during normal rat fetal lung development
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The extracellular regulated kinases-1 and -2 (ERK1/2) are well-characterized mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) that play critical roles in proliferation and differentiation, whereas the function(s) of MAPK ERK3 are currently unknown. To understand better the roles of these kinases in development, the temporal distribution of ERK1, -2, and -3 proteins were investigated in multiple tissues. The ERK3 protein, in contrast to ERK1/2 varied both between and within individual organs over time. To characterize this variability in greater detail, the temporal and spatial distributions of activated ERK1/2 and ERK3 during rat fetal lung development were investigated. The diphosphorylated (activated) forms of ERK1/2 (dp-ERK1/2), ERK3, and its phosphorylated form (P-ERK3) decreased from embryonic day 17 (E17) through E21 while both ERK1 and ERK2 total proteins remained unchanged, indicating that ERK1/2 and ERK3 proteins are expressed independently during fetal lung development. In addition, characterization of the distribution of these proteins by fluorescent immunohistochemistry indicated that phosphorylated ERK1/2 and total ERK1/2 were distributed throughout multiple cell types, with the phosphorylated ERK1/2 colocalizing with prophase mitotic cells. In contrast, ERK3 was restricted to the distal lung epithelium during the pseudoglandular phase (E17) but shifted to the proximal airways, particularly Clara cells during the saccular stage (E21). The P-ERK3 colocalized with the mitotic marker P-histone H3 in fetal lung and in NIH3T3 and HeLa cells, implicating a potential role for P-ERK3 in mitosis. Thus, expression of ERK1/2 and ERK3 and their phosphorylated forms are expressed independently and are temporally and spatially localized during fetal lung morphogenesis. These observations will facilitate detailed functional analysis of these kinases to assess their roles in pulmonary development and diseases.