Positive crosstalk between ERK and p38 in melanoma stimulates migration and in vivo proliferation

Yeriel Estrada, Jianli Dong, Liliana Ossowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Melanoma is one of the most therapy-resistant cancers. Activating mutations in BRAF and NRAS are the source of extracellular signal regulated protein kinase (ERK) pathway activation. We show that melanoma cell lines, originating in different metastatic sites, with BRAF or NRAS mutations, in addition to active mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK)-ERK, also have highly activated stress activated protein kinase (SAPK)-p38. This is in direct contrast to carcinoma cells in which the activity of the two kinases appears to be mutually exclusive; high level of p38 activity inhibits, through a negative feedback, ERK activity and prevents tumorigenesis. Melanomas are insensitive to ERK inhibition by p38 and utilize p38-signaling pathway for migration and growth in vivo. We found a positive functional loop linking the high ERK activity to surface expression of αVβ3-integrin. This integrin, by interacting with vitronectin, induces p38 activity and increases IL-8 production, enhancing cell migration. Because the negative loop from p38 to ERK is lost, the two kinases can remain simultaneously activated. Inhibition of ERK and p38 activities is more effective in blocking in vivo growth than inhibition of each kinase individually. Future therapies might have to consider targeting of both pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalPigment Cell and Melanoma Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • ERK
  • IL-8
  • In vivo growth
  • Integrin
  • Melanoma
  • Migration
  • P38

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology


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