Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) predisposes individuals to the development of juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), a fatal myeloproliferative disease (MPD). In genetically engineered murine models, nullizygosity of Nf1, a tumor suppressor gene that encodes a Ras-GTPase-activating protein, results in hyperactivity of Raf/Mek/Erk in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Activated Erk1/2 phosphorylate kinases and transcription factors with myriad mitogenic roles in diverse cell types. However, genetic studies examining Erk1/2's differential and/or combined control of normal and Nf1-deficient myelopoiesis are lacking. Moreover, prior studies relying on chemical Mek/Erk inhibitors have reached conflicting conclusions in normal and Nf1-deficient mice. Here, we show that while single Erk1 or Erk2 disruption did not grossly compromise myelopoiesis, dual Erk1/2 disruption rapidly ablated granulocyte and monocyte production in vivo, diminished progenitor cell number, and prevented HSPC proliferation in vitro. Genetic disruption of Erk1/2 in the context of Nf1 nullizygosity (Mx1Cre+Nf1flox/floxErk1 -/-Erk2flox/flox) fully protects against the development of MPD. Collectively, we identified a fundamental requirement for Erk1/2 signaling in normal and Nf1-deficient hematopoiesis, elucidating a critical hematopoietic function for Erk1/2 while genetically validating highly selective Mek/Erk inhibitors in a leukemia that is otherwise resistant to traditional therapy.
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