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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Valproic acid induces differentiation and inhibition of proliferation in neural progenitor cells via the beta-catenin-Ras-ERK-p21Cip/WAF1 pathway

Gyung-Ah Jung1, Ju-Yong Yoon1, Byoung-San Moon1, Dong-Hwa Yang1, Hyun-Yi Kim1, Sang-Hun Lee2, Vitezslav Bryja3, Ernest Arenas3 and Kang-Yell Choi1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Research Laboratory of Molecular Complex Control, Department of Biotechnology, College of Life Science and Biotechnology, Yonsei University, Seoul, 120-752, Korea

2 Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, Hanyang University, Seoul, 133-791, Korea

3 Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, S1-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Cell Biology 2008, 9:66  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-9-66

Published: 9 December 2008

Abstract

Background

Valproic acid (VPA), a commonly used mood stabilizer that promotes neuronal differentiation, regulates multiple signaling pathways involving extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and glycogen synthase kinase3β (GSK3β). However, the mechanism by which VPA promotes differentiation is not understood.

Results

We report here that 1 mM VPA simultaneously induces differentiation and reduces proliferation of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)-treated embryonic day 14 (E14) rat cerebral cortex neural progenitor cells (NPCs). The effects of VPA on the regulation of differentiation and inhibition of proliferation occur via the ERK-p21Cip/WAF1 pathway. These effects, however, are not mediated by the pathway involving the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) but via the pathway which stabilizes Ras through β-catenin signaling. Stimulation of differentiation and inhibition of proliferation in NPCs by VPA occur independently and the β-catenin-Ras-ERK-p21Cip/WAF1 pathway is involved in both processes. The independent regulation of differentiation and proliferation in NPCs by VPA was also demonstrated in vivo in the cerebral cortex of developing rat embryos.

Conclusion

We propose that this mechanism of VPA action may contribute to an explanation of its anti-tumor and neuroprotective effects, as well as elucidate its role in the independent regulation of differentiation and inhibition of proliferation in the cerebral cortex of developing rat embryos.