Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMMSCs) have the capacity for self-renewal, and differentiation into a variety of cell types. They thus represent an attractive source of material for cell therapy. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying the proliferation of BMMSCs. The purpose of this study was to identify the factors and signaling pathways involved in the proliferation of stem cell antigen-1+ (Sca-1+) BMMSCs. Among the cytokines and growth factors examined in this study, fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) and FGF-4 significantly stimulated the proliferation of Sca-1+ BMMSCs, as determined by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. PI3K-Akt, ERK1/2, and JAK/STAT3 pathways were investigated after stimulation with FGF-2 or FGF-4 via Western blot analysis. No changes were observed in the total ERK1/2 and Akt; however, the pERK1/2 and pAkt levels were upregulated early within 15 min in the FGF-2- or FGF-4-treated Sca-1+ BMMSCs. Moreover, the pERK1/2 and pAkt upregulation induced by FGF-2 and -4 were completely abolished by treatment with the MEK1/2 inhibitor, U0126 and the PI3K inhibitor, LY294002. However, no change in pJAK2 or total JAK2 levels was observed in the Sca-1+ BMMSCs induced by FGF-2 or FGF-4. As a consequence of PI3K-Akt and ERK1/2, the upregulation of c-Jun in the Sca-1 + BMMSCs, after stimulation with FGF-2 or FGF-4, was observed after 12 and 24 h. Moreover, the activation of c-Jun in FGF-2- and FGF-4-treated Sca-1+ BMMSCs was significantly reduced by U0126. Taken together, these data suggest that FGF-2 and -4 promote the proliferation of Sca-1 + BMMSCs by activation of the ERK1/2 and PI3K-Akt signaling pathways.
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