ERK1/2 is required for myoblast proliferation but is dispensable for muscle gene expression and cell fusion.
Skeletal muscle satellite cells, which are found between the muscle fiber and the basal lamina, remain quiescent and undifferentiated unless stimulated to remodel skeletal muscle or repair injured skeletal muscle tissue. Quiescent satellite cells express c-met and fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFR) 1 and 4, suggesting these receptors are involved in maintaining the undifferentiated quiescent state or involved in satellite cell activation. Although the signaling pathways involved are poorly understood, the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade has been implicated in the regulation of skeletal muscle growth and differentiation by FGFs. In this study, we investigated if activation of the Raf-MKK1/2-ERK1/2 signaling cascade plays a role in FGF-dependent repression of differentiation and proliferation of MM14 cells, a skeletal muscle satellite cell line. Inactivation ofthe Raf-MKK1/2-ERK1/2 pathway in myoblasts through the overexpression of dominant negative mutants of Raf-1 blocks ERK1/2 activity and prevents myoblast proliferation. Additionally, inhibition of MKK1/2 by treatment with pharmacological inhibitors also blocks FGF-mediated stimulation of ERK1/2 and blocks the G1 to S phase transition of myoblasts. Unexpectedly, we found that inactivation of the Raf-ERK pathway does not activate a muscle reporter, nor does inactivation of this pathway promote myogenic differentiation. We conclude that FGF-stimulated ERK1/2 signaling is required during the G1 phase of the cell cycle for commitment of myoblasts to DNA synthesis but is not required for mitosis once cells have entered the S-phase. Moreover, ERK1/2 signaling is not required either to repress differentiation, to promote skeletal muscle gene expression, or to promote myoblast fusion.