The neuropeptide substance P (SP) regulates many biological processes through binding to and activating the SP receptor (NK-1 subtype). Activation of the SP receptor induces mitogenesis in several cell types. In this study, we characterized the mitogenic response induced by SP peptide in the U-373MG astrocytoma cell line and showed that activation of the SP receptor induces [3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA. We also found that SP potently induces c-myc mRNA and protein in the U-373MG cells. Tyrphostin A25, which blocks activity of tyrosine kinases, significantly inhibited SP-induced mitogenesis, suggesting that the mitogenic response induced by SP peptide involves phosphorylation by tyrosine kinases. Furthermore, stimulation of the SP receptor activates tyrosine phosphorylation and enzymatic activity of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (Erk1 and Erk2), also called the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). This result suggests that MAPKs participate in the SP peptide-induced signaling pathway. The addition of CP 96,345 ([(2S,3S)-cis-2-(diphenylmethyl)-N-[(2-methoxyphenyl)-methyl]-1-azabicyclo[2.2.2]octan-3-amine]; an NK-1 receptor antagonist) or PD 098059 (MEK1 inhibitor) inhibited both DNA synthesis and activation of the MAPK pathway, substantiating that SP stimulates mitogenesis by activating the MAPK pathway through receptors of the NK-1 subtype. Our results demonstrate that SP peptide is a strong mitogen in the U-373MG astrocytoma cell line and establish a clear correlation between SP-induced mitogenesis and activation of MAPK signaling pathway.

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This work was supported, in part, by the Cancer Center CORE Grant CA-21765 from the NIH and by the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities.

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