The c-Mer receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) is most closely related to chicken c-Eyk and belongs to the Axl RTK subfamily. Although not detected in normal lymphocytes, c-Mer is expressed in B- and T-cell leukemia cell lines, suggesting an association with lymphoid malignancies. To gain an understanding of the role of this receptor in lymphoid cells, we expressed in murine interleukin-3 (IL-3)-dependent Ba/F3 pro-B-lymphocyte cells a constitutively active receptor, CDMer, formed from the CD8 extracellular domain and the c-Mer intracellular domain. Cells transfected with a plasmid encoding the CDMer receptor became IL-3 independent. When tyrosine (Y)-to-phenylalanine (F) mutations were introduced into c-Mer, only the Y867 change significantly reduced the IL-3-independent cell proliferation. The Y867 residue in the CDMer receptor mediated the binding of Grb2, which recruited the p85 phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase). Despite the difference in promotion of proliferation, both the CDMer and mutant F867 receptors activated Erk in transfected cells. On the other hand, we found that both transcriptional activation of NF-κB and activation of PI 3-kinase were significantly suppressed with the F867 mutant receptor, suggesting that the activation of antiapoptotic pathways is the major mechanism for the observed phenotypic difference. Consistent with this notion, apoptosis induced by IL-3 withdrawal was strongly prevented by CDMer but not by the F867 mutant receptor
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