The bisindolylmaleimide, GF109203X (2-[1-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)-1H- indol-3-yl]-3-(1H-indol-3-yl)-maleimide ), a highly selective inhibitor of protein kinase C (PKC), was used to test the role of this enzyme in phorbol ester-induced megakaryocytic differentiation of HEL cells. Treatment of these cells with 10 nmol/L phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) for 3 days caused a complete inhibition of proliferation and a threefold increase in the surface expression of glycoprotein (GP) IIIa, a marker of megakaryocytic differentiation that forms part of the fibrinogen receptor complex, GPIIb/IIIa. A similar effect was observed with phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate, but not with the biologically inactive derivative PMA-4-O-methyl ether. The PMA-induced increase in GPIIIa expression was completely inhibited by GF109203X in a dose-dependent manner (IC50 = 0.5 mumol/L), with a maximal effect at 2.5 to 5.0 mumol/L. GF109203X also blocked the inhibitory effect of PMA on cell growth and inhibited PMA-stimulated phosphorylation of the 47-kD PKC substrate, pleckstrin. Incubation of HEL cells with 25 mumol/L hemin for 3 days caused a fourfold to fivefold increase in expression of the erythroid differentiation marker, glycophorin A. In contrast to the inhibitory effect of GF109203X on GPIIIa expression, hemin induction of glycophorin A was enhanced by this compound. Furthermore, GF109203X alone caused a dose-dependent increase in glycophorin A expression, and induced hemoglobinization. Consistent with these changes, Northern blot analysis revealed that GF109203X treatment reduced the steady-state level of GPIIb mRNA and increased those for glycophorin A and gamma-globin. These results suggest that PKC may act as a developmental switch controlling erythroid/megakaryocytic differentiation.

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