The mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs; also known as ERKs) are key intracellular signaling molecules that are ubiquitously expressed in tissues and were assumed to be functionally equivalent. Here, we use the mouse lens as a model system to investigate whether MAPK1 plays a specific role during development. MAPK3 is known to be dispensable for lens development. We demonstrate that, although MAPK1 is uniformly expressed in the lens epithelium, its deletion significantly reduces cell proliferation in the peripheral region, an area referred to as the lens germinative zone in which most active cell division occurs during normal lens development. By contrast, cell proliferation in the central region is minimally affected by MAPK1 deletion. Cell cycle regulators, including cyclin D1 and survivin, are downregulated in the germinative zone of the MAPK1-deficient lens. Interestingly, loss of MAPK1 subsequently induces upregulation of phosphorylated MAPK3 (pMAPK3) levels in the lens epithelium; however, this increase in pMAPK3 is not sufficient to restore cell proliferation in the germinative zone. Additionally, MAPK1 plays an essential role in epithelial cell survival but is dispensable for fiber cell differentiation during lens development. Our data indicate that MAPK1/3 control cell proliferation in the lens epithelium in a spatially defined manner; MAPK1 plays a unique role in establishing the highly mitotic zone in the peripheral region, whereas the two MAPKs share a redundant role in controlling cell proliferation in the central region of the lens epithelium.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology