Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) is an important mediator of breast cancer cell growth, although the signaling pathways important for IGF-I-mediated effects in breast cancer cells are still being elucidated. We had demonstrated previously that increased intracellular cAMP in MCF-7 breast cancer cells inhibited cell growth and IGF-I-induced gene expression, as determined using a reporter gene assay. This effect of cAMP on IGF-I signaling was independent of IGF-I-induced activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1 and -2). To determine whether this effect of cAMP may be mediated via another mitogen-activated protein kinase, the ability of IGF-I to activate the c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) was investigated. Treatment of MCF-7 cells with 100 ng/ml IGF-I increased the level of phosphorylated JNK, as determined by Western blot analysis. JNK phosphorylation was not evident until 15 min after treatment with IGF-I, and peak levels of phosphorylation were present at 30-60 min. This was in contrast to ERK phosphorylation, which was present within 7.5 min of IGF-I treatment. Determination of JNK activity using an immune complex assay demonstrated a 3.3- and 3.5-fold increase in JNK1 and -2 activity, respectively, 30 min after treatment with 100 ng/ml IGF-I. The use of PD98059, which inhibits activation of ERK1 and -2, and LY 294002, an inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, demonstrated that IGF-I-induced activation of JNK1 is independent of ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activation. In contrast, increasing intracellular cAMP with forskolin resulted in abrogation of IGF-I-induced JNK activity. In summary, these data demonstrate that IGF-I activates the JNKs in MCF-7 breast cancer cells and, taken together with the results of our previous study, suggest that JNK may contribute to IGF-I-mediated gene expression and, possibly, cell growth in MCF-7 breast cancer cells.
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