The MAPK/Erk signaling cascade is activated by a wide variety of receptors involved in growth and differentiation including receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), integrins, and ion channels. The specific components of the cascade vary greatly among different stimuli, but the architecture of the pathway usually includes a set of adaptors (Shc, GRB2, Crk, etc.) linking the receptor to a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (SOS, C3G, etc.) transducing the signal to small GTP-binding proteins (Ras, Rap1), which in turn activate the core unit of the cascade composed of a MAPKKK (Raf), a MAPKK (MEK1/2), and MAPK (Erk). An activated Erk dimer can regulate targets in the cytosol and also translocate to the nucleus where it phosphorylates a variety of transcription factors regulating gene expression.
We would like to thank Prof. John Blenis, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, for reviewing this diagram.
created January 2003
revised October 2012