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Special Issue "MAPK-ERK Pathway"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Biochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Jong-In Park
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biochemistry, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA
Interests: Mechanisms of MEK/ERK growth arrest signaling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Raf/MEK/Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK/MAPK) pathway is a highly specific three-layered kinase cascade that has pivotal roles in a variety of cellular processes, including cell cycle progression, survival, and differentiation. The deregulation of this pathway is implicated in a variety of pathophysiological conditions, including cancers, metabolic diseases, neurological disorders, and genetically inherited disorders. The kinase cascade of this pathway consists of the Ser/Thr kinases, A-Raf, B-Raf, and C-Raf-1, the highly homologous dual-specificity kinases, MEK1 and MEK2, and the ubiquitously expressed serine/threonine kinase, ERK1 and ERK2 (collectively referred to as ERK1/2). As the key focal point of pathway signaling, ERK1/2 activate/inactivate a variety of targets, including transcription factors, other kinases, phosphatases, cytoskeletal proteins, scaffolds, receptors, and signaling components. The specificity of pathway signaling is determined at multiple levels, including regulation of the magnitude and duration of pathway activity, spatio-temporal regulation, regulation of the monomeric vs. dimeric status of ERK1/2, as well as its crosstalk with other pathways. Recent studies have substantially expanded our knowledge of the pathway signaling at molecular levels, allowing the development of diverse potential therapeutic strategies targeting this pathway.

This Special Issue covers recent advances in the molecular mechanisms and biological functions of the ERK/MAPK pathway signaling, its regulators and downstream effectors, as well as the relevance of these aspects in human disease and potential therapeutic strategies. We encourage authors to submit original research articles or reviews.

Prof. Dr. Jong-In Park
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • ERK/MAPK signaling in cell survival, proliferation, and differentiation
  • aberrant ERK/MAPK signaling in disease
  • regulators of the ERK/MAPK pathway
  • downstream effectors of the ERK/MAPK pathway
  • targeting the ERK/MAPK pathway in diseases
  • drug resistance to the ERK/MAPK pathway inhibition

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
The MEK/ERK Module Is Reprogrammed in Remodeling Adult Cardiomyocytes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(17), 6348; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21176348 - 01 Sep 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Fetal and hypertrophic remodeling are hallmarks of cardiac restructuring leading chronically to heart failure. Since the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK cascade (MAPK) is involved in the development of heart failure, we hypothesized, first, that fetal remodeling is different from hypertrophy and, second, that remodeling of the [...] Read more.
Fetal and hypertrophic remodeling are hallmarks of cardiac restructuring leading chronically to heart failure. Since the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK cascade (MAPK) is involved in the development of heart failure, we hypothesized, first, that fetal remodeling is different from hypertrophy and, second, that remodeling of the MAPK occurs. To test our hypothesis, we analyzed models of cultured adult rat cardiomyocytes as well as investigated myocytes in the failing human myocardium by western blot and confocal microscopy. Fetal remodeling was induced through endothelial morphogens and monitored by the reexpression of Acta2, Actn1, and Actb. Serum-induced hypertrophy was determined by increased surface size and protein content of cardiomyocytes. Serum and morphogens caused reprogramming of Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK. In both models H-Ras, N-Ras, Rap2, B- and C-Raf, MEK1/2 as well as ERK1/2 increased while K-Ras was downregulated. Atrophy, MAPK-dependent ischemic resistance, loss of A-Raf, and reexpression of Rap1 and Erk3 highlighted fetal remodeling, while A-Raf accumulation marked hypertrophy. The knock-down of B-Raf by siRNA reduced MAPK activation and fetal reprogramming. In conclusion, we demonstrate that fetal and hypertrophic remodeling are independent processes and involve reprogramming of the MAPK. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessArticle
The Long-Lasting Protective Effect of HGF in Cardiomyoblasts Exposed to Doxorubicin Requires a Positive Feed-Forward Loop Mediated by Erk1,2-Timp1-Stat3
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(15), 5258; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21155258 - 24 Jul 2020
Abstract
Previous studies showed that the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)–Met receptor axis plays long-lasting cardioprotection against doxorubicin anti-cancer therapy. Here, we explored the mechanism(s) underlying the HGF protective effect. DNA damage was monitored by histone H2AX phosphorylation and apoptosis by proteolytic cleavage of caspase [...] Read more.
Previous studies showed that the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)–Met receptor axis plays long-lasting cardioprotection against doxorubicin anti-cancer therapy. Here, we explored the mechanism(s) underlying the HGF protective effect. DNA damage was monitored by histone H2AX phosphorylation and apoptosis by proteolytic cleavage of caspase 3. In doxorubicin-treated H9c2 cardiomyoblasts, the long-lasting cardioprotection is mediated by activation of the Ras/Raf/Mek/Erk (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1,2) signaling pathway and requires Stat3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) activation. The HGF protection was abrogated by the Erk1,2 inhibitor, PD98059. This translated into reduced Y705 phosphorylation and impaired nuclear translocation of Stat3, showing crosstalk between Erk1,2 and Stat3 signaling. An array of 29 cytokines, known to activate Stat3, was interrogated to identify the molecule(s) linking the two pathways. The analysis showed a selective increase in expression of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (Timp1). Consistently, inhibition in cardiomyoblasts of Timp1 translation by siRNAs blunted both Stat3 activation and the cardioprotective effect of HGF. Thus, Timp1 is responsible for the generation of a feed-forward loop of Stat3 activation and helps cardiomyocytes to survive during the genotoxic stress induced by anthracyclines. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessArticle
The C-Terminus Tail Regulates ERK3 Kinase Activity and Its Ability in Promoting Cancer Cell Migration and Invasion
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(11), 4044; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21114044 - 05 Jun 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 3 (ERK3) is an atypical member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family. It harbors a kinase domain in the N-terminus and a long C-terminus extension. The C-terminus extension comprises a conserved in ERK3 and ERK4 (C34) region and a [...] Read more.
Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 3 (ERK3) is an atypical member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family. It harbors a kinase domain in the N-terminus and a long C-terminus extension. The C-terminus extension comprises a conserved in ERK3 and ERK4 (C34) region and a unique C-terminus tail, which was shown to be required for the interaction of ERK3 with the cytoskeletal protein septin 7. Recent studies have elucidated the role of ERK3 signaling in promoting the motility and invasiveness of cancer cells. However, little is known about the intramolecular regulation of the enzymatic activity and cellular functions of ERK3. In this study, we investigated the role of the elongated C-terminus extension in regulating ERK3 kinase activity and its ability to promote cancer cell migration and invasion. Our study revealed that the deletion of the C-terminus tail greatly diminishes the ability of ERK3 to promote the migration and invasion of lung cancer cells. We identified two molecular mechanisms underlying this effect. Firstly, the deletion of the C-terminus tail decreases the kinase activity of ERK3 towards substrates, including the oncogenic protein steroid receptor co-activator 3 (SRC-3), an important downstream target for ERK3 signaling in cancer. Secondly, in line with the previous finding that the C-terminus tail mediates the interaction of ERK3 with septin 7, we found that the depletion of septin 7 abolished the ability of ERK3 to promote migration, indicating that septin 7 acts as a downstream effector for ERK3-induced cancer cell migration. Taken together, the findings of this study advance our understanding of the molecular regulation of ERK3 signaling by unraveling the role of the C-terminus tail in regulating ERK3 kinase activity and functions in cancer cells. These findings provide useful insights for the development of therapeutic agents targeting ERK3 signaling in cancer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessArticle
JCPyV-Induced MAPK Signaling Activates Transcription Factors during Infection
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(19), 4779; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms20194779 - 26 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
JC polyomavirus (JCPyV), a ubiquitous human pathogen, is the etiological agent of the fatal neurodegenerative disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Like most viruses, JCPyV infection requires the activation of host-cell signaling pathways in order to promote viral replication processes. Previous works have established [...] Read more.
JC polyomavirus (JCPyV), a ubiquitous human pathogen, is the etiological agent of the fatal neurodegenerative disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Like most viruses, JCPyV infection requires the activation of host-cell signaling pathways in order to promote viral replication processes. Previous works have established the necessity of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), the terminal core kinase of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade (MAPK-ERK) for facilitating transcription of the JCPyV genome. However, the underlying mechanisms by which the MAPK-ERK pathway becomes activated and induces viral transcription are poorly understood. Treatment of cells with siRNAs specific for Raf and MAP kinase kinase (MEK) targets proteins in the MAPK-ERK cascade, significantly reducing JCPyV infection. MEK, the dual-specificity kinase responsible for the phosphorylation of ERK, is phosphorylated at times congruent with early events in the virus infectious cycle. Moreover, a MAPK-specific signaling array revealed that transcription factors downstream of the MAPK cascade, including cMyc and SMAD4, are upregulated within infected cells. Confocal microscopy analysis demonstrated that cMyc and SMAD4 shuttle to the nucleus during infection, and nuclear localization is reduced when ERK is inhibited. These findings suggest that JCPyV induction of the MAPK-ERK pathway is mediated by Raf and MEK and leads to the activation of downstream transcription factors during infection. This study further defines the role of the MAPK cascade during JCPyV infection and the downstream signaling consequences, illuminating kinases as potential therapeutic targets for viral infection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessArticle
Activin B Stimulates Mouse Vibrissae Growth and Regulates Cell Proliferation and Cell Cycle Progression of Hair Matrix Cells through ERK Signaling
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(4), 853; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms20040853 - 15 Feb 2019
Abstract
Activins and their receptors play important roles in the control of hair follicle morphogenesis, but their role in vibrissae follicle growth remains unclear. To investigate the effect of Activin B on vibrissae follicles, the anagen induction assay and an in vitro vibrissae culture [...] Read more.
Activins and their receptors play important roles in the control of hair follicle morphogenesis, but their role in vibrissae follicle growth remains unclear. To investigate the effect of Activin B on vibrissae follicles, the anagen induction assay and an in vitro vibrissae culture system were constructed. Hematoxylin and eosin staining were performed to determine the hair cycle stages. The 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU) and Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) assays were used to examine the cell proliferation. Flow cytometry was used to detect the cell cycle phase. Inhibitors and Western blot analysis were used to investigate the signaling pathway induced by Activin B. As a result, we found that the vibrissae follicle growth was accelerated by 10 ng/mL Activin B in the anagen induction assay and in an organ culture model. 10 ng/mL Activin B promoted hair matrix cell proliferation in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, Activin B modulates hair matrix cell growth through the ERK–Elk1 signaling pathway, and Activin B accelerates hair matrix cell transition from the G1/G0 phase to the S phase through the ERK–Cyclin D1 signaling pathway. Taken together, these results demonstrated that Activin B may promote mouse vibrissae growth by stimulating hair matrix cell proliferation and cell cycle progression through ERK signaling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessArticle
Vanillic Acid Suppresses HIF-1α Expression via Inhibition of mTOR/p70S6K/4E-BP1 and Raf/MEK/ERK Pathways in Human Colon Cancer HCT116 Cells
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(3), 465; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms20030465 - 22 Jan 2019
Cited by 14
Abstract
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) plays a pivotal role in tumor adaptation to microenvironmental hypoxia, and it also exerts important roles in angiogenesis and tumor development. Vanillic acid is a dietary phenolic compound reported to exhibit anticancer properties. However, the mechanisms by which vanillic [...] Read more.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) plays a pivotal role in tumor adaptation to microenvironmental hypoxia, and it also exerts important roles in angiogenesis and tumor development. Vanillic acid is a dietary phenolic compound reported to exhibit anticancer properties. However, the mechanisms by which vanillic acid inhibits tumor growth are not fully understood. Here, we investigated the effect of vanillic acid on HIF-1α activation. Vanillic acid significantly inhibits HIF-1α expression induced by hypoxia in various human cancer cell lines. Further analysis revealed that vanillic acid inhibited HIF-1α protein synthesis. Neither the HIF-1α protein degradation rate nor the steady-state HIF-1α mRNA levels were affected by vanillic acid. Moreover, vanillic acid inhibited HIF-1α expression by suppressing mammalian target of rapamycin/p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase/eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding protein-1 and Raf/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK)/ERK pathways. We found that vanillic acid dose-dependently inhibited VEGF and EPO protein expressions and disrupted tube formation. The results suggest that vanillic acid effectively inhibits angiogenesis. Flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that vanillic acid significantly induced G1 phase arrest and inhibited the proliferation of human colon cancer HCT116 cells. In vivo experiments confirmed that vanillic acid treatment caused significant inhibition of tumor growth in a xenografted tumor model. These studies reveal that vanillic acid is an effective inhibitor of HIF-1α and provides new perspectives into the mechanism of its antitumor activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Growth Inhibitory Signaling of the Raf/MEK/ERK Pathway
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(15), 5436; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21155436 - 30 Jul 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
In response to extracellular stimuli, the Raf/MEK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway regulates diverse cellular processes. While mainly known as a mitogenic signaling pathway, the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway can mediate not only cell proliferation and survival but also cell cycle arrest and death in different [...] Read more.
In response to extracellular stimuli, the Raf/MEK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway regulates diverse cellular processes. While mainly known as a mitogenic signaling pathway, the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway can mediate not only cell proliferation and survival but also cell cycle arrest and death in different cell types. Growing evidence suggests that the cell fate toward these paradoxical physiological outputs may be determined not only at downstream effector levels but also at the pathway level, which involves the magnitude of pathway activity, spatial-temporal regulation, and non-canonical functions of the molecular switches in this pathway. This review discusses recent updates on the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathway-mediated growth inhibitory signaling, with a major focus on the regulation mediated at the pathway level. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessReview
MAP/ERK Signaling in Developing Cognitive and Emotional Function and Its Effect on Pathological and Neurodegenerative Processes
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(12), 4471; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms21124471 - 23 Jun 2020
Cited by 5
Abstract
The signaling pathway of the microtubule-associated protein kinase or extracellular regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK) is a common mechanism of extracellular information transduction from extracellular stimuli to the intracellular space. The transduction of information leads to changes in the ongoing metabolic pathways and the modification [...] Read more.
The signaling pathway of the microtubule-associated protein kinase or extracellular regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK) is a common mechanism of extracellular information transduction from extracellular stimuli to the intracellular space. The transduction of information leads to changes in the ongoing metabolic pathways and the modification of gene expression patterns. In the central nervous system, ERK is expressed ubiquitously, both temporally and spatially. As for the temporal ubiquity, this signaling system participates in three key moments: (i) Embryonic development; (ii) the early postnatal period; and iii) adulthood. During embryonic development, the system is partly responsible for the patterning of segmentation in the encephalic vesicle through the FGF8-ERK pathway. In addition, during this period, ERK directs neurogenesis migration and the final fate of neural progenitors. During the early postnatal period, ERK participates in the maturation process of dendritic trees and synaptogenesis. During adulthood, ERK participates in social and emotional behavior and memory processes, including long-term potentiation. Alterations in mechanisms related to ERK are associated with different pathological outcomes. Genetic alterations in any component of the ERK pathway result in pathologies associated with neural crest derivatives and mental dysfunctions associated with autism spectrum disorders. The MAP-ERK pathway is a key element of the neuroinflammatory pathway triggered by glial cells during the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as prionic diseases. The process triggered by MAPK/ERK activation depends on the stage of development (mature or senescence), the type of cellular element in which the pathway is activated, and the anatomic neural structure. However, extensive gaps exist with regards to the targets of the phosphorylated ERK in many of these processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessReview
ERK1,2 Signalling Pathway along the Nephron and Its Role in Acid-base and Electrolytes Balance
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(17), 4153; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms20174153 - 25 Aug 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are intracellular molecules regulating a wide range of cellular functions, including proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, cytoskeleton remodeling and cytokine production. MAPK activity has been shown in normal kidney, and its over-activation has been demonstrated in several renal diseases. The extracellular [...] Read more.
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are intracellular molecules regulating a wide range of cellular functions, including proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, cytoskeleton remodeling and cytokine production. MAPK activity has been shown in normal kidney, and its over-activation has been demonstrated in several renal diseases. The extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERK 1,2) signalling pathway is the first described MAPK signaling. Intensive investigations have demonstrated that it participates in the regulation of ureteric bud branching, a fundamental process in establishing final nephron number; in addition, it is also involved in the differentiation of the nephrogenic mesenchyme, indicating a key role in mammalian kidney embryonic development. In the present manuscript, we show that ERK1,2 signalling mediates several cellular functions also in mature kidney, describing its role along the nephron and demonstrating whether it contributes to the regulation of ion channels and transporters implicated in acid-base and electrolytes homeostasis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessReview
Human DNA Virus Exploitation of the MAPK-ERK Cascade
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(14), 3427; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms20143427 - 12 Jul 2019
Cited by 10
Abstract
The extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) comprise a particular branch of the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades (MAPK) that transmits extracellular signals into the intracellular environment to trigger cellular growth responses. Similar to other MAPK cascades, the MAPK-ERK pathway signals through three core kinases—Raf, MAPK/ERK [...] Read more.
The extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) comprise a particular branch of the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades (MAPK) that transmits extracellular signals into the intracellular environment to trigger cellular growth responses. Similar to other MAPK cascades, the MAPK-ERK pathway signals through three core kinases—Raf, MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK), and ERK—which drive the signaling mechanisms responsible for the induction of cellular responses from extracellular stimuli including differentiation, proliferation, and cellular survival. However, pathogens like DNA viruses alter MAPK-ERK signaling in order to access DNA replication machineries, induce a proliferative state in the cell, or even prevent cell death mechanisms in response to pathogen recognition. Differential utilization of this pathway by multiple DNA viruses highlights the dynamic nature of the MAPK-ERK pathway within the cell and the importance of its function in regulating a wide variety of cellular fates that ultimately influence viral infection and, in some cases, result in tumorigenesis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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Open AccessReview
Extracellular-Signal Regulated Kinase: A Central Molecule Driving Epithelial–Mesenchymal Transition in Cancer
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(12), 2885; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijms20122885 - 13 Jun 2019
Cited by 24
Abstract
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a reversible cellular process, characterized by changes in gene expression and activation of proteins, favoring the trans-differentiation of the epithelial phenotype to a mesenchymal phenotype. This process increases cell migration and invasion of tumor cells, progression of the cell [...] Read more.
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a reversible cellular process, characterized by changes in gene expression and activation of proteins, favoring the trans-differentiation of the epithelial phenotype to a mesenchymal phenotype. This process increases cell migration and invasion of tumor cells, progression of the cell cycle, and resistance to apoptosis and chemotherapy, all of which support tumor progression. One of the signaling pathways involved in tumor progression is the MAPK pathway. Within this family, the ERK subfamily of proteins is known for its contributions to EMT. The ERK subfamily is divided into typical (ERK 1/2/5), and atypical (ERK 3/4/7/8) members. These kinases are overexpressed and hyperactive in various types of cancer. They regulate diverse cellular processes such as proliferation, migration, metastasis, resistance to chemotherapy, and EMT. In this context, in vitro and in vivo assays, as well as studies in human patients, have shown that ERK favors the expression, function, and subcellular relocalization of various proteins that regulate EMT, thus promoting tumor progression. In this review, we discuss the mechanistic roles of the ERK subfamily members in EMT and tumor progression in diverse biological systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue MAPK-ERK Pathway)
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