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1.  Spred-2 Deficiency Exacerbates Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Acute Lung Inflammation in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108914.
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe and life-threatening acute lung injury (ALI) that is caused by noxious stimuli and pathogens. ALI is characterized by marked acute inflammation with elevated alveolar cytokine levels. Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are involved in cytokine production, but the mechanisms that regulate these pathways remain poorly characterized. Here, we focused on the role of Sprouty-related EVH1-domain-containing protein (Spred)-2, a negative regulator of the Ras-Raf-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-MAPK pathway, in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced acute lung inflammation.
Wild-type (WT) mice and Spred-2−/− mice were exposed to intratracheal LPS (50 µg in 50 µL PBS) to induce pulmonary inflammation. After LPS-injection, the lungs were harvested to assess leukocyte infiltration, cytokine and chemokine production, ERK-MAPK activation and immunopathology. For ex vivo experiments, alveolar macrophages were harvested from untreated WT and Spred-2−/− mice and stimulated with LPS. In in vitro experiments, specific knock down of Spred-2 by siRNA or overexpression of Spred-2 by transfection with a plasmid encoding the Spred-2 sense sequence was introduced into murine RAW264.7 macrophage cells or MLE-12 lung epithelial cells.
LPS-induced acute lung inflammation was significantly exacerbated in Spred-2−/− mice compared with WT mice, as indicated by the numbers of infiltrating leukocytes, levels of alveolar TNF-α, CXCL2 and CCL2 in a later phase, and lung pathology. U0126, a selective MEK/ERK inhibitor, reduced the augmented LPS-induced inflammation in Spred-2−/− mice. Specific knock down of Spred-2 augmented LPS-induced cytokine and chemokine responses in RAW264.7 cells and MLE-12 cells, whereas Spred-2 overexpression decreased this response in RAW264.7 cells.
The ERK-MAPK pathway is involved in LPS-induced acute lung inflammation. Spred-2 controls the development of LPS-induced lung inflammation by negatively regulating the ERK-MAPK pathway. Thus, Spred-2 may represent a therapeutic target for the treatment of ALI.
PMCID: PMC4183529  PMID: 25275324
2.  CXCL12 Induces Connective Tissue Growth Factor Expression in Human Lung Fibroblasts through the Rac1/ERK, JNK, and AP-1 Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104746.
CXCL12 (stromal cell-derived factor-1, SDF-1) is a potent chemokine for homing of CXCR4+ fibrocytes to injury sites of lung tissue, which contributes to pulmonary fibrosis. Overexpression of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) plays a critical role in pulmonary fibrosis. In this study, we investigated the roles of Rac1, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and activator protein-1 (AP-1) in CXCL12-induced CTGF expression in human lung fibroblasts. CXCL12 caused concentration- and time-dependent increases in CTGF expression and CTGF-luciferase activity. CXCL12-induced CTGF expression was inhibited by a CXCR4 antagonist (AMD3100), small interfering RNA of CXCR4 (CXCR4 siRNA), a dominant negative mutant of Rac1 (RacN17), a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase (MEK) inhibitor (PD98059), a JNK inhibitor (SP600125), a p21-activated kinase inhibitor (PAK18), c-Jun siRNA, and an AP-1 inhibitor (curcumin). Treatment of cells with CXCL12 caused activations of Rac1, Rho, ERK, and c-Jun. The CXCL12-induced increase in ERK phosphorylation was inhibited by RacN17. Treatment of cells with PD98059 and SP600125 both inhibited CXCL12-induced c-Jun phosphorylation. CXCL12 caused the recruitment of c-Jun and c-Fos binding to the CTGF promoter. Furthermore, CXCL12 induced an increase in α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression, a myofibroblastic phenotype, and actin stress fiber formation. CXCL12-induced actin stress fiber formation and α-SMA expression were respectively inhibited by AMD3100 and CTGF siRNA. Taken together, our results suggest that CXCL12, acting through CXCR4, activates the Rac/ERK and JNK signaling pathways, which in turn initiates c-Jun phosphorylation, and recruits c-Jun and c-Fos to the CTGF promoter and ultimately induces CTGF expression in human lung fibroblasts. Moreover, overexpression of CTGF mediates CXCL12-induced α-SMA expression.
PMCID: PMC4133236  PMID: 25121739
3.  Effects of the mTOR inhibitor Rapamycin on Monocyte-Secreted Chemokines 
BMC Immunology  2014;15(1):37.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors, such as sirolimus and its derivative, everolimus, are potent immunosuppressive and antiproliferative drugs. Inflammatory diseases are characterized by immunological dysfunction, and monocyte recruitment underlies the mechanism of cell damage. Chemokines attract inflammatory cells to sites of inflammation. Interleukin-8 (IL-8/CXCL8); the monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1/CCL2); the regulated on activation, normal T cell expressed, presumably secreted protein (RANTES/CCL5); the macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1α (CCL3); and MIP-1β (CCL4) are involved in the pathogenesis of inflammation. However, whether mTOR inhibitors moderate the production of chemokines in monocytes remains unclear.
A human monocyte cell line, THP-1, and primary monocytes obtained from human volunteers, were stimulated using lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and then treated with sirolimus. The expression of the MCP-1, RANTES, IL-8, MIP-1α, MIP-1β, and TNF-α proteins was measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, and intracellular signalling was examined using western blotting.
Sirolimus significantly suppressed the LPS-induced expression of MCP-1, IL-8, RANTES, MIP-1α, and MIP-1β in the THP-1 cells and human primary monocytes. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors that were examined suppressed the LPS-induced expression of MCP-1, IL-8, RANTES, MIP-1α, and MIP-1β. In addition, sirolimus suppressed the LPS-induced phosphorylation of p38 and p65 in the THP-1 and human primary monocytes.
Sirolimus downregulates the expression of chemokines in monocytes, including MCP-1, RANTES, IL-8, MIP-1α, and MIP-1β, by inhibiting the NF-κB-p65 and MAPK-p38 signalling pathways.
PMCID: PMC4189728  PMID: 25257976
mTOR; Chemokine; Glomerulonephritis
4.  ERK1/2 and MEK1/2 Induced by Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (Human Herpesvirus 8) Early during Infection of Target Cells Are Essential for Expression of Viral Genes and for Establishment of Infection 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(16):10308-10329.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) in vitro target cell infection is characterized by the expression of the latency-associated genes ORF 73 (LANA-1), ORF 72, and K13 and by the transient expression of a very limited number of lytic genes such as lytic cycle switch gene ORF 50 (RTA) and the immediate early (IE) lytic K5, K8, and v-IRF2 genes. During the early stages of infection, several overlapping multistep complex events precede the initiation of viral gene expression. KSHV envelope glycoprotein gB induces the FAK-Src-PI3K-RhoGTPase (where FAK is focal adhesion kinase) signaling pathway. As early as 5 min postinfection (p.i.), KSHV induced the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) via the PI3K-PKCζ-MEK pathway. In addition, KSHV modulated the transcription of several host genes of primary human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HMVEC-d) and fibroblast (HFF) cells by 2 h and 4 h p.i. Neutralization of virus entry and infection by PI-3K and other cellular tyrosine kinase inhibitors suggested a critical role for signaling molecules in KSHV infection of target cells. Here we investigated the induction of ERK1/2 by KSHV and KSHV envelope glycoproteins gB and gpK8.1A and the role of induced ERK in viral and host gene expression. Early during infection, significant ERK1/2 induction was observed even with low multiplicity of infection of live and UV-inactivated KSHV in serum-starved cells as well as in the presence of serum. Entry of UV-inactivated virus and the absence of viral gene expression suggested that ERK1/2 induction is mediated by the initial signal cascade induced by KSHV binding and entry. Purified soluble gpK8.1A induced the MEK1/2 dependent ERK1/2 but not ERK5 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in HMVEC-d and HFF. Moderate ERK induction with soluble gB was seen only in HMVEC-d. Preincubation of gpK8.1A with heparin or anti-gpK8.1A antibodies inhibited the ERK induction. U0126, a selective inhibitor for MEK/ERK blocked the gpK8.1A- and KSHV-induced ERK activation. ERK1/2 inhibition did not block viral DNA internalization and had no significant effect on nuclear delivery of KSHV DNA during de novo infection. Analyses of viral gene expression by quantitative real-time reverse transciptase PCR revealed that pretreatment of cells with U0126 for 1 h and during the 2-h infection with KSHV significantly inhibited the expression of ORF 73, ORF 50 (RTA), and the IE-K8 and v-IRF2 genes. However, the expression of lytic IE-K5 gene was not affected significantly. Expression of ORF 73 in BCBL-1 cells was also significantly inhibited by preincubation with U0126. Inhibition of ERK1/2 also inhibited the transcription of some of the vital host genes such as DUSP5 (dual specificity phosphatase 5), ICAM-1 (intercellular adhesion molecule 1), heparin binding epidermal growth factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor that were up-regulated early during KSHV infection. Several MAPK-regulated host transcription factors such as c-Jun, STAT1α, MEF2, c-Myc, ATF-2 and c-Fos were induced early during infection, and ERK inhibition significantly blocked the c-Fos, c-Jun, c-Myc, and STAT1α activation in the infected cells. AP1 transcription factors binding to the RTA promoter in electrophoretic mobility shift assays were readily detected in the infected cell nuclear extracts which were significantly reduced by ERK inhibition. Together, these results suggest that very early during de novo infection, KSHV induces the ERK1/2 to modulate the initiation of viral gene expression and host cell genes, which further supports our hypothesis that beside the conduit for viral DNA delivery into the cytoplasm, KSHV interactions with host cell receptor(s) create an appropriate intracellular environment facilitating infection.
PMCID: PMC1182676  PMID: 16051824
5.  Effect of Connective Tissue Growth Factor on Protein Kinase Expression and Activity in Human Corneal Fibroblasts 
To investigate signal transduction pathways for connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) in human corneal fibroblasts (HCF).
Expression of 75 kinases in cultures of serum-starved (HCF) were investigated using protein kinase screens, and changes in levels of phosphorylation of 31 different phosphoproteins were determined at 0, 5, and 15 minutes after treatment with CTGF. Levels of phosphorylation of three signal transducing phosphoproteins (extracellular regulated kinase 1 [ERK1], extracellular regulated kinase 2 [ERK2] [MAPKs], and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 [STAT3]) were measured at nine time points after exposure to CTGF using Western immunoblots. Inhibition of Ras, MEK1/2 (MAPKK), and ERK1/2, on CTGF-stimulated fibroblast proliferation and collagen gel contraction was assessed using selective inhibitors farnesylthiosalicylic acid, PD-98059, and SB203580, respectively.
Thirty two of the 75 kinases (43%) evaluated by the kinase screen were detected in extracts of quiescent HCF, suggesting these kinases are available to respond acutely to CTGF exposure. Addition of CTGF increased levels of phosphorylation of five phosphoproteins (ERK1 and 2, MEK1/2 [MAPKK], STAT3, and SAPK/JNK), and decreased levels of phosphorylation of 14 phosphoproteins (including protein kinases B and C) after 5 and 15 minutes. Further analysis of ERK1 and 2 and STAT3 phosphorylation showed rapid increases within 1 minute of CTGF exposure that peaked between 5 and 10 minutes then returned to pretreatment levels by 30 minutes. Treatment of HCF with selective inhibitors of Ras, MEK 1/2, and ERK1/2 individually blocked both CTGF induced cell proliferation, and collagen gel contraction.
Results from protein kinase screens and selective kinase inhibitors demonstrate Ras/MEK/ERK/STAT3 pathway is required for CTGF signaling in HCF.
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a major inducer of corneal scarring thru induction of collagen and smooth muscle actin in myofibroblasts. CTGF signaling requires Ras/MEK/ERK/STAT3 pathway in human corneal fibroblasts, suggesting small molecule kinase inhibitors of these pathways may reduce corneal scarring.
PMCID: PMC3522434  PMID: 23139271
6.  Effect of ethanol on innate antiviral pathways and HCV replication in human liver cells 
Virology Journal  2005;2:89.
Alcohol abuse reduces response rates to IFN therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C. To model the molecular mechanisms behind this phenotype, we characterized the effects of ethanol on Jak-Stat and MAPK pathways in Huh7 human hepatoma cells, in HCV replicon cell lines, and in primary human hepatocytes. High physiological concentrations of acute ethanol activated the Jak-Stat and p38 MAPK pathways and inhibited HCV replication in several independent replicon cell lines. Moreover, acute ethanol induced Stat1 serine phosphorylation, which was partially mediated by the p38 MAPK pathway. In contrast, when combined with exogenously applied IFN-α, ethanol inhibited the antiviral actions of IFN against HCV replication, involving inhibition of IFN-induced Stat1 tyrosine phosphorylation. These effects of alcohol occurred independently of i) alcohol metabolism via ADH and CYP2E1, and ii) cytotoxic or cytostatic effects of ethanol. In this model system, ethanol directly perturbs the Jak-Stat pathway, and HCV replication.
Infection with Hepatitis C virus is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. With a propensity to progress to chronic infection, approximately 70% of patients with chronic viremia develop histological evidence of chronic liver diseases including chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. The situation is even more dire for patients who abuse ethanol, where the risk of developing end stage liver disease is significantly higher as compared to HCV patients who do not drink [1,2].
Recombinant interferon alpha (IFN-α) therapy produces sustained responses (ie clearance of viremia) in 8–12% of patients with chronic hepatitis C [3]. Significant improvements in response rates can be achieved with IFN plus ribavirin combination [4-6] and pegylated IFN plus ribavirin [7,8] therapies. However, over 50% of chronically infected patients still do not clear viremia. Moreover, HCV-infected patients who abuse alcohol have extremely low response rates to IFN therapy [9], but the mechanisms involved have not been clarified.
MAPKs play essential roles in regulation of differentiation, cell growth, and responses to cytokines, chemokines and stress. The core element in MAPK signaling consists of a module of 3 kinases, named MKKK, MKK, and MAPK, which sequentially phosphorylate each other [10]. Currently, four MAPK modules have been characterized in mammalian cells: Extracellular Regulated Kinases (ERK1 and 2), Stress activated/c-Jun N terminal kinase (SAPK/JNK), p38 MAP kinases, and ERK5 [11]. Interestingly, ethanol modulates MAPKs [12]. However, information on how ethanol affects MAPKs in the context of innate antiviral pathways such as the Jak-Stat pathway in human cells is extremely limited.
When IFN-α binds its receptor, two receptor associated tyrosine kinases, Tyk2 and Jak1 become activated by phosphorylation, and phosphorylate Stat1 and Stat2 on conserved tyrosine residues [13]. Stat1 and Stat2 combine with the IRF-9 protein to form the transcription factor interferon stimulated gene factor 3 (ISGF-3), which binds to the interferon stimulated response element (ISRE), and induces transcription of IFN-α-induced genes (ISG). The ISGs mediate the antiviral effects of IFN. The transcriptional activities of Stats 1, 3, 4, 5a, and 5b are also regulated by serine phosphorylation [14]. Phosphorylation of Stat1 on a conserved serine amino acid at position 727 (S727), results in maximal transcriptional activity of the ISGF-3 transcription factor complex [15]. Although cross-talk between p38 MAPK and the Jak-Stat pathway is essential for IFN-induced ISRE transcription, p38 does not participate in IFN induction of Stat1 serine phosphorylation [14,16-19]. However, cellular stress responses induced by stimuli such as ultraviolet light do induce p38 MAPK mediated Stat1 S727 phosphorylation [18].
In the current report, we postulated that alcohol and HCV proteins modulate MAPK and Jak-Stat pathways in human liver cells. To begin to address these issues, we characterized the interaction of acute ethanol on Jak-Stat and MAPK pathways in Huh7 cells, HCV replicon cells lines, and primary human hepatocytes.
PMCID: PMC1318489  PMID: 16324217
HCV; IFN; virus-host interactions; signal transduction; alcohol
7.  Neutrophils Promote Mycobacterial Trehalose Dimycolate-Induced Lung Inflammation via the Mincle Pathway 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(4):e1002614.
Trehalose 6,6′-dimycolate (TDM), a cord factor of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), is an important regulator of immune responses during Mtb infections. Macrophages recognize TDM through the Mincle receptor and initiate TDM-induced inflammatory responses, leading to lung granuloma formation. Although various immune cells are recruited to lung granulomas, the roles of other immune cells, especially during the initial process of TDM-induced inflammation, are not clear. In this study, Mincle signaling on neutrophils played an important role in TDM-induced lung inflammation by promoting adhesion and innate immune responses. Neutrophils were recruited during the early stage of lung inflammation following TDM-induced granuloma formation. Mincle expression on neutrophils was required for infiltration of TDM-challenged sites in a granuloma model induced by TDM-coated-beads. TDM-induced Mincle signaling on neutrophils increased cell adherence by enhancing F-actin polymerization and CD11b/CD18 surface expression. The TDM-induced effects were dependent on Src, Syk, and MAPK/ERK kinases (MEK). Moreover, coactivation of the Mincle and TLR2 pathways by TDM and Pam3CSK4 treatment synergistically induced CD11b/CD18 surface expression, reactive oxygen species, and TNFα production by neutrophils. These synergistically-enhanced immune responses correlated with the degree of Mincle expression on neutrophil surfaces. The physiological relevance of the Mincle-mediated anti-TDM immune response was confirmed by defective immune responses in Mincle−/− mice upon aerosol infections with Mtb. Mincle-mutant mice had higher inflammation levels and mycobacterial loads than WT mice. Neutrophil depletion with anti-Ly6G antibody caused a reduction in IL-6 and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 expression upon TDM treatment, and reduced levels of immune cell recruitment during the initial stage of infection. These findings suggest a new role of Mincle signaling on neutrophils during anti-mycobacterial responses.
Author Summary
Tuberculosis is one of the world's most pernicious diseases. Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis, has a lipid-rich cell wall that contains immunostimulatory properties. One of the lipid cell wall components, trehalose 6,6′-dimycolate (TDM), is a Mincle ligand and an immunogenic factor of Mtb that induces inflammatory responses leading to granuloma formation. Defining the major target and cellular functions of TDM may be requisite for delaying or preventing mycobacterial TDM-induced inflammation. Here, we demonstrated that neutrophils are important for the early phase of TDM-induced lung inflammation. Neutrophils are recruited during the initial stage of TDM-induced lung inflammation and Mincle is required for neutrophil access to TDM-challenged sites by enhancing neutrophil integrin expression, cytoskeleton remodeling, and cell adhesion. Furthermore, neutrophils aggravate TDM-induced lung inflammation by producing proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines. These findings open new perspectives for the role of Mincle signaling on neutrophils during TDM-induced inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC3320589  PMID: 22496642
8.  Nickel Nanoparticles Enhance Platelet-Derived Growth Factor–Induced Chemokine Expression by Mesothelial Cells via Prolonged Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Activation 
Pleural diseases (fibrosis and mesothelioma) are a major concern for individuals exposed by inhalation to certain types of particles, metals, and fibers. Increasing attention has focused on the possibility that certain types of engineered nanoparticles (NPs), especially those containing nickel, might also pose a risk for pleural diseases. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is an important mediator of fibrosis and cancer that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of pleural diseases. In this study, we discovered that PDGF synergistically enhanced nickel NP (NiNP)–induced increases in mRNA and protein levels of the profibrogenic chemokine monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1 or CCL2), and the antifibrogenic IFN-inducible CXC chemokine (CXCL10) in normal rat pleural mesothelial 2 (NRM2) cells in vitro. Carbon black NPs (CBNPs), used as a negative control NP, did not cause a significant increase in CCL2 or CXCL10 in the absence or presence of PDGF. NiNPs prolonged PDGF-induced phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase family termed extracellular signal–regulated kinases (ERK)-1 and -2 for up to 24 hours, and NiNPs also synergistically increased PDGF-induced hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α protein levels in NRM2 cells. Inhibition of ERK-1,2 phosphorylation with the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor, PD98059, blocked the synergistic increase in CCL2, CXCL10, and HIF-1α levels induced by PDGF and NiNPs. Moreover, the antioxidant, N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), significantly reduced HIF-1α, ERK-1,2 phosphorylation, and CCL2 protein levels that were synergistically increased by the combination of PDGF and NiNPs. These data indicate that NiNPs enhance the activity of PDGF in regulating chemokine production in NRM2 cells through a mechanism involving reactive oxygen species generation and prolonged activation of ERK-1,2.
PMCID: PMC3488624  PMID: 22700867
nanoparticles; metals; lung; pleura; chemokines
9.  Expression and Functional Significance of SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 in Astrocytes 
Astrocytes play a number of important physiological roles in Central Nervous System (CNS) homeostasis. Inflammation stimulates astrocytes to secrete cytokines and chemokines that guide macrophages/microglia and T-cells to sites of injury/inflammation, and herein we describe how these processes are controlled by the Suppressor Of Cytokine Signaling (SOCS) proteins, a family of proteins that negatively regulate adaptive and innate immune responses. In this study, we describe that the immunomodulatory cytokine IFN-β induces SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 expression in primary astrocytes at the transcriptional level. SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 transcriptional activity is induced by IFN-β through GAS elements within their promoters. Studies in STAT-1α deficient astrocytes indicate that STAT-1α is required for IFN-β-induced SOCS-1 expression, while STAT-3 siRNA studies demonstrate that IFN-β-induced SOCS-3 expression relies on STAT-3 activation. Specific siRNA inhibition of IFN-β-inducible SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 in astrocytes enhances their pro-inflammatory responses to IFN-β stimulation, such as heightened expression of the chemokines CCL2 (MCP-1), CCL3 (MIP-1α), CCL4 (MIP-1β), CCL5 (RANTES) and CXCL10 (IP-10), and promoting chemotaxis of macrophages and CD4+ T-cells. These results indicate that IFN-β induces SOCS-1 and SOCS-3 in primary astrocytes in order to attenuate its own chemokine-related inflammation in the CNS.
PMCID: PMC2836124  PMID: 18713987
10.  IL-17A stimulates the production of inflammatory mediators via Erk1/2, p38 MAPK, PI3K/Akt, and NF-κB pathways in ARPE-19 cells 
Molecular Vision  2011;17:3072-3077.
To investigate the signaling pathways involved in interleukin (IL)-17A -mediated production of interleukin 8 (CXCL8), chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2), and interleukin 6 (IL-6) by ARPE-19 cells, a spontaneously arisen cell line of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).
Flow cytometry analysis and western blot were used to detect the phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 (Erk1/2), p38 mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and protein kinase B (PKB; Akt) in ARPE-19 cells stimulated with IL-17A. These cells were further pretreated with a series of kinase inhibitors and followed by incubation with IL-17A. CXCL8, CCL2, and IL-6 in the supernatant were quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Coculture of ARPE-19 cells with IL-17A resulted in significant increases in Erk1/2, p38 MAPK, and Akt phosphorylation. Inhibition of p38MAPK, phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB), with the inhibitors SB203580, LY294002 and pyrrolydine dithiocarbamate (PDTC) respectively, reduced IL-17 (100 ng/ml) mediated production of CXCL8, CCL2, and IL-6 in a concentration dependent manner. Inhibition of Erk1/2 with PD98059 decreased the expression of the tested three inflammatory mediators when using low doses of IL-17A (0–10 ng/ml) but not at higher concentrations.
IL-17A-induced production of inflammatory mediators by ARPE-19 cells involves Erk1/2, p38MAPK, PI3K-Akt and NF-κB pathways.
PMCID: PMC3233389  PMID: 22162626
11.  TGF-β1 increases proliferation of airway smooth muscle cells by phosphorylation of map kinases 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):2.
Airway remodeling in asthma is the result of increased expression of connective tissue proteins, airway smooth muscle cell (ASMC) hyperplasia and hypertrophy. TGF-β1 has been found to increase ASMC proliferation. The activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), p38, ERK, and JNK, is critical to the signal transduction associated with cell proliferation. In the present study, we determined the role of phosphorylated MAPKs in TGF-β1 induced ASMC proliferation.
Confluent and growth-arrested bovine ASMCs were treated with TGF-β1. Proliferation was measured by [3H]-thymidine incorporation and cell counting. Expressions of phosphorylated p38, ERK1/2, and JNK were determined by Western analysis.
In a concentration-dependent manner, TGF-β1 increased [3H]-thymidine incorporation and cell number of ASMCs. TGF-β1 also enhanced serum-induced ASMC proliferation. Although ASMCs cultured with TGF-β1 had a significant increase in phosphorylated p38, ERK1/2, and JNK, the maximal phosphorylation of each MAPK had a varied onset after incubation with TGF-β1. TGF-β1 induced DNA synthesis was inhibited by SB 203580 or PD 98059, selective inhibitors of p38 and MAP kinase kinase (MEK), respectively. Antibodies against EGF, FGF-2, IGF-I, and PDGF did not inhibit the TGF-β1 induced DNA synthesis.
Our data indicate that ASMCs proliferate in response to TGF-β1, which is mediated by phosphorylation of p38 and ERK1/2. These findings suggest that TGF-β1 which is expressed in airways of asthmatics may contribute to irreversible airway remodeling by enhancing ASMC proliferation.
PMCID: PMC1360679  PMID: 16390551
12.  Fibroblast Growth Factor-1 Induced Promatrilysin Expression Through the Activation of Extracellular-regulated Kinases and STAT3 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2002;4(1):60-67.
The MMP, matrilysin (MMP-7), has been shown to be overexpressed in prostate cancer cells and to increase prostate cancer cell invasion. Prostate stromal fibroblasts secrete factor(s), including fibroblast growth factor-1 (FGF-1) that induces promatrilysin expression in LNCaP cells. In the present study, we investigated the signal transduction pathway involved in the FGF-1-induced expression of promatrilysin. FGF-1 treatment significantly increased the activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1 and ERK2). This induction was time-dependent and was sustained until 24 hours after treatment. Treating the cells with MEK1/2 inhibitor (PD98059) eliminated ERK activation completely and blocked FGF-1-mediated induction of promatrilysin expression. Transient transfection studies with human matrilysin promoter resulted in a four-to five-fold increase in reporter luciferase enzyme activity that was blocked by the MEK1/2 inhibitor (PD98059). Serine phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) was observed after FGF-1 treatment and pretreatment with 20 µM PD98059-abolished STAT3 phosphorylation. Transient transfection with dominant negative STAT3 inhibited FGF-1-induced transactivation of the matrilysin promoter indicating that STAT3 plays an important role in FGF-1-induced matrilysin expression. We propose that the FGF-1-induced signaling pathway that leads to promatrilysin expression is ERK-dependent and leads to phosphorylation of Ser-727 on STAT3, phosphorylated STAT3, then binds and transactivates the matrilysin promoter. Our results demonstrate that ERK-MAP kinase and transcription factor STAT3 are important components of FGF-1—mediated signaling, which induce promatrilysin expression in LNCaP cells.
PMCID: PMC1503316  PMID: 11922392
matrilysin; prostate; STAT3; FGF-1; LNCaP
13.  IL-22 in the endometriotic milieu promotes the proliferation of endometrial stromal cells via stimulating the secretion of CCL2 and IL-8 
Interleukin-22 (IL-22) is a member of the IL-10 cytokine family and plays critical roles in inflammation, immune surveillance, and tissue homeostasis. However, whether IL-22 regulates the growth of endometrial stromal cells (ESCs), and participates in the pathogenesis of endometriosis remain unclear. In this study, we found that the expression of IL-22 and it receptors (IL-22R1 and IL-10R2) in eutopic endometrium and ectopic lesion of women with endometriosis was higher than that from healthy control. Recombinant human IL-22 (rhIL-22) stimulated the proliferation of ESCs in a dosage-dependent manner. On the contrary, anti-human IL-22 neutralizing antibody inhibited the proliferation of ESCs in vitro. The stimulatory effect of IL-22 on the proliferation of ESCs could be reversed by inhibitor of STAT5, ERK1/2 or AKT signal pathway. However, blocking STAT3, JNK or P38 signal pathway had no these effects. By Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and flow cytometry assay, we demonstrated the rhIL-22 not only stimulate the secretion of CCL2 and IL-8, but also significantly up-regulate the expression of IL-8 receptor CXCR1 on ESCs. Meanwhile, STAT5, ERK1/2 and or AKT signal inhibitors could abrogate the increase of CCL2, IL-8 and CXCR1 levels induced by rhIL-22. However, rhIL-22 had not similar influence on CCL2 receptor CCR2. Our current results suggested that the higher level of IL-22 and it receptors in eutopic endometrium may stimulate the expression of CCL2, IL-8/CXCR1, and further promote the growth of ESCs possibly through activating STAT5, MAPK/ERK1/2 and or AKT signal pathways, which may be involved in the occurrence and development of endometriosis.
PMCID: PMC3796222  PMID: 24133578
IL-22; endometrial stromal cells; proliferation; CCL2; IL-8; endometriosis
14.  Genetic targeting of ERK1 suggests a predominant role for ERK2 in murine pain models 
The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) isoforms, ERK1 and ERK2, are believed to be key signaling molecules in nociception and nociceptive sensitization. Studies utilizing inhibitors targeting the shared ERK1/2 upstream activator, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK), and transgenic mice expressing a dominant negative form of MEK have established the importance of ERK1/2 signaling. However, these techniques do not discriminate between ERK1 and ERK2. To dissect the function of each isoform in pain, we utilized mice with a targeted genetic deletion of ERK1 (ERK1 KO) to test the hypothesis that ERK1 is required for behavioral sensitization in rodent pain models. Despite activation (phosphorylation) of ERK1 following acute noxious stimulation and in models of chronic pain, we found that ERK1 was not required for formalin-induced spontaneous behaviors, complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced heat and mechanical hypersensitivity, and spared nerve injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity. However, ERK1 deletion did delay formalin-induced long-term heat hypersensitivity, without affecting formalin-induced mechanical hypersensitivity, suggesting that ERK1 partially shapes long-term responses to formalin. Interestingly, ERK1 deletion resulted in elevated basal ERK2 phosphorylation. However, this did not appear to influence nociceptive processing, since inflammation-induced ERK2 phosphorylation and pERK1/2 immunoreactivity in spinal cord were not elevated in ERK1 KO mice. Additionally, systemic MEK inhibition with SL327 attenuated formalin-induced spontaneous behaviors similarly in WT and ERK1 KO mice, indicating that unrelated signaling pathways do not functionally compensate for the loss of ERK1. Taken together, these results suggest that ERK1 plays a limited role in nociceptive sensitization and supports a predominant role for ERK2 in these processes.
PMCID: PMC2932641  PMID: 20739576
ERK1; ERK2; isoform; pain; nociception; spinal cord
15.  The Novel Cytokine Interleukin-33 Activates Acinar Cell Proinflammatory Pathways and Induces Acute Pancreatic Inflammation in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56866.
Acute pancreatitis is potentially fatal but treatment options are limited as disease pathogenesis is poorly understood. IL-33, a novel IL-1 cytokine family member, plays a role in various inflammatory conditions but its role in acute pancreatitis is not well understood. Specifically, whether pancreatic acinar cells produce IL-33 when stressed or respond to IL-33 stimulation, and whether IL-33 exacerbates acute pancreatic inflammation is unknown.
In duct ligation-induced acute pancreatitis in mice and rats, we found that (a) IL-33 concentration was increased in the pancreas; (b) mast cells, which secrete and also respond to IL-33, showed degranulation in the pancreas and lung; (c) plasma histamine and pancreatic substance P concentrations were increased; and (d) pancreatic and pulmonary proinflammatory cytokine concentrations were increased. In isolated mouse pancreatic acinar cells, TNF-α stimulation increased IL-33 release while IL-33 stimulation increased proinflammatory cytokine release, both involving the ERK MAP kinase pathway; the flavonoid luteolin inhibited IL-33-stimulated IL-6 and CCL2/MCP-1 release. In mice without duct ligation, exogenous IL-33 administration induced pancreatic inflammation without mast cell degranulation or jejunal inflammation; pancreatic changes included multifocal edema and perivascular infiltration by neutrophils and some macrophages. ERK MAP kinase (but not p38 or JNK) and NF-kB subunit p65 were activated in the pancreas of mice receiving exogenous IL-33, and acinar cells isolated from the pancreas of these mice showed increased spontaneous cytokine release (IL-6, CXCL2/MIP-2α). Also, IL-33 activated ERK in human pancreatic tissue.
As exogenous IL-33 does not induce jejunal inflammation in the same mice in which it induces pancreatic inflammation, we have discovered a potential role for an IL-33/acinar cell axis in the recruitment of neutrophils and macrophages and the exacerbation of acute pancreatic inflammation.
IL-33 is induced in acute pancreatitis, activates acinar cell proinflammatory pathways and exacerbates acute pancreatic inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3572073  PMID: 23418608
16.  L-Ascorbate Attenuates the Endotoxin-Induced Production of Inflammatory Mediators by Inhibiting MAPK Activation and NF-κB Translocation in Cortical Neurons/Glia Cocultures 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e97276.
In response to acute insults to the central nervous system, such as pathogen invasion or neuronal injuries, glial cells become activated and secrete inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide (NO), cytokines, and chemokines. This neuroinflammation plays a crucial role in the pathophysiology of chronic neurodegenerative diseases. Endogenous ascorbate levels are significantly decreased among patients with septic encephalopathy. Using the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to induce neuroinflammation in primary neuron/glia cocultures, we investigated how L-ascorbate (vitamin C; Vit. C) affected neuroinflammation. LPS (100 ng/ml) induced the expression of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) and the production of NO, interleukin (IL)-6, and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2/CXCL2) in a time-dependent manner; however, cotreatment with Vit. C (5 or 10 mM) attenuated the LPS-induced iNOS expression and production of NO, IL-6, and MIP-2 production. The morphological features revealed after immunocytochemical staining confirmed that Vit. C suppressed LPS-induced astrocytic and microglial activation. Because Vit. C can be transported into neurons and glia via the sodium-dependent Vit. C transporter-2, we examined how Vit. C affected LPS-activated intracellular signaling in neuron/glia cocultures. The results indicated the increased activation (caused by phosphorylation) of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), such as p38 at 30 min and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) at 180 min after LPS treatment. The inhibition of p38 and ERK MAPK suppressed the LPS-induced production of inflammatory mediators. Vit. C also inhibited the LPS-induced activation of p38 and ERK. Combined treatments of Vit. C and the inhibitors of p38 and ERK yielded no additional inhibition compared with using the inhibitors alone, suggesting that Vit. C functions through the same signaling pathway (i.e., MAPK) as these inhibitors. Vit. C also reduced LPS-induced IκB-α degradation and NF-κB translocation. Thus, Vit. C suppressed the LPS-stimulated production of inflammatory mediators in neuron/glia cocultures by inhibiting the MAPK and NF-κB signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC4077707  PMID: 24983461
17.  MEK/ERK Dependent Activation of STAT1 Mediates Dasatinib-Induced Differentiation of Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66915.
Dasatinib (BMS-354825) is a FDA-approved multitargeted kinase inhibitor of BCR/ABL and Src kinases. It is now used in the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) with resistance or intolerance to prior therapies, including imatinib. Here we report a novel effect of dasatinib on inducing the differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells through MEK/ERK-dependent activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1). We found that dasatinib could induce the differentiation of AML cells as demonstrated by the expression of differentiation marker CD11b, G0/G1 phase arrest and decreased ratio of nucleus to cytoplasm. Of note, dasatinib induced robust phosphorylation of STAT1 both at Tyr701 and Ser727 as well as the redistribution of STAT1 from the cytoplasm to the nucleus, thus leading to the transcription of STAT1-targeted genes. Knocking down STAT1 expression by shRNA significantly attenuated dasatinib-induced differentiation, indicating an important role of STAT1 in myeloid maturation. We further found that dasatinib-induced activation of STAT1 was regulated by the MEK/ERK kinases. The phosporylation of MEK and ERK occurred rapidly upon dasatinib treatment and increased progressively as differentiation was induced. MEK inhibitors PD98059 and U0216 not only inhibited the phosphorylation of STAT1, but also abrogated dasatinib-induced myeloid differentiation, suggesting that MEK/ERK dependent phosphorylation of STAT1 might be indispensable for the differentiating effect of dasatinib in AML cells. Taken together, our study suggests that STAT1 is an important mediator in dasatinib-induced differentiation of AML cells, whose activation requires the activation of MEK/ERK cascades.
PMCID: PMC3692534  PMID: 23825585
18.  Role of CCR5 in IFN-γ–induced and cigarette smoke–induced emphysema 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(12):3460-3472.
Th1 inflammation and remodeling characterized by tissue destruction frequently coexist in human diseases. To further understand the mechanisms of these responses, we defined the role(s) of CCR5 in the pathogenesis of IFN-γ–induced inflammation and remodeling in a murine emphysema model. IFN-γ was a potent stimulator of the CCR5 ligands macrophage inflammatory protein–1α/CCL-3 (MIP-1α/CCL-3), MIP-1β/CCL-4, and RANTES/CCL-5, among others. Antibody neutralization or null mutation of CCR5 decreased IFN-γ–induced inflammation, DNA injury, apoptosis, and alveolar remodeling. These interventions decreased the expression of select chemokines, including CCR5 ligands and MMP-9, and increased levels of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor. They also decreased the expression and/or activation of Fas, FasL, TNF, caspase-3, -8, and -9, Bid, and Bax. In accordance with these findings, cigarette smoke induced pulmonary inflammation, DNA injury, apoptosis, and emphysema via an IFN-γ–dependent pathway(s), and a null mutation of CCR5 decreased these responses. These studies demonstrate that IFN-γ is a potent stimulator of CC and CXC chemokines and highlight the importance of CCR5 in the pathogenesis of IFN-γ–induced and cigarette smoke–induced inflammation, tissue remodeling, and emphysema. They also demonstrate that CCR5 is required for optimal IFN-γ stimulation of its own ligands, other chemokines, MMPs, caspases, and cell death regulators and the inhibition of antiproteases.
PMCID: PMC1280966  PMID: 16284650
19.  p42/p44-MAPK and PI3K are sufficient for IL-6 family cytokines/gp130 to signal to hypertrophy and survival in cardiomyocytes in the absence of JAK/STAT activation 
Cellular Signalling  2013;25(4):898-909.
The effect of differential signalling by IL-6 and leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) which signal by gp130 homodimerisation or LIFRβ/gp130 heterodimerisation on survival and hypertrophy was studied in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes. Both LIF and IL-6 [in the absence of soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6Rα)] activated Erk1/2, JNK1/2, p38-MAPK and PI3K signalling peaking at 20 min and induced cytoprotection against simulated ischemia-reperfusion injury which was blocked by the MEK1/2 inhibitor PD98059 but not the p38-MAPK inhibitor SB203580. In the absence of sIL-6R, IL-6 did not induce STAT1/3 phosphorylation, whereas IL-6/sIL-6R and LIF induced STAT1 and STAT3 phosphorylation. Furthermore, IL-6/sIL-6R induced phosphorylation of STAT1 Tyr701 and STAT3 Tyr705 were enhanced by SB203580. IL-6 and pheneylephrine (PE), but not LIF, induced cardiomyocyte iNOS expression and nitric oxide (NO) production. IL-6, LIF and PE induced cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, but with phenotypic differences in ANF and SERCA2 expression and myofilament organisation with IL-6 more resembling PE than LIF. Transfection of cardiomyocytes with full length or truncated chimaeric gp130 cytoplasmic domain/Erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) extracellular domain fusion constructs showed that the membrane proximal Box 1 and Box 2 containing region of gp130 was necessary and sufficient for MAPK and PI3K activation; hypertrophy; SERCA2 expression and iNOS/NO induction in the absence of JAK/STAT activation. In conclusion, IL-6 can signal in cardiomyocytes independent of sIL-6R and STAT1/3 and furthermore, that Erk1/2 and PI3K activation by IL-6 are both necessary and sufficient for induced cardioprotection. In addition, p38-MAPK may act as a negative feedback regulator of JAK/STAT activation in cardiomyocytes.
► IL-6 signals independently of soluble IL-6 receptor in cardiomyocytes. ► IL-6 activates MAPK and PI-3-kinase in the absence of JAK/STAT activation. ► IL-6 induces hypertrophy and cytoprotection in the absence of JAK/STAT activation. ► IL-6 induced Erk-1 and 2 MAPK activation is necessary and sufficient for cytoprotection.
PMCID: PMC3627957  PMID: 23268184
Interleukin-6; Glycoprotein130; Cardiomyocyte
20.  Selective regulation of MAP kinases and Chemokine expression after ligation of ICAM-1 on human airway epithelial cells 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):12.
Intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) is an immunoglobulin-like cell adhesion molecule expressed on the surface of multiple cell types, including airway epithelial cells. It has been documented that cross-linking ICAM-1 on the surface of leukocytes results in changes in cellular function through outside-inside signaling; however, the effect of cross-linking ICAM-1 on the surface of airway epithelial cells is currently unknown. The objective of this study was to investigate whether or not cross-linking ICAM-1 on the surface of airway epithelial cells phosphorylated MAP kinases or stimulated chemokine expression and secretion.
The human lung adenocarcinoma (A549) cells and primary cultures of normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells were used in these studies. To increase ICAM-1 surface expression, cultures were stimulated with TNFα to enhance ICAM-1 surface expression. Following ICAM-1 upregulation, ICAM-1 was ligated with a murine anti-human ICAM-1 antibody and subsequently cross-linked with a secondary antibody (anti-mouse IgG(ab')2) in the presence or absence of the MAP kinase inhibitors. Following treatments, cultures were assessed for MAPK activation and chemokine gene expression and secretion. Control cultures were treated with murine IgG1 antibody or murine IgG1 antibody and anti-mouse IgG(ab')2 to illustrate specificity. Data were analyzed for significance using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Bonferroni post-test correction for multiple comparisons, and relative gene expression was analyzed using the 2-ΔΔCT method.
ICAM-1 cross-linking selectively phosphorylated both ERK and JNK MAP kinases as detected by western blot analysis. In addition, cross-linking resulted in differential regulation of chemokine expression. Specifically, IL-8 mRNA and protein secretion was not altered by ICAM-1 cross-linking, in contrast, RANTES mRNA and protein secretion was induced in both epithelial cultures. These events were specifically inhibited by the ERK inhibitor PD98059. Data indicates that ICAM-1 cross-linking stimulates a synergistic increase in TNFα-mediated RANTES production involving activation of ERK in airway epithelial cells.
Results demonstrate that cytokine induced ICAM-1 on the surface of airway epithelial cells induce outside-inside signaling through cross-linking ICAM-1, selectively altering intracellular pathways and cytokine production. These results suggest that ICAM-1 cross-linking can contribute to inflammation in the lung via production of the chemokine RANTES.
PMCID: PMC1386665  PMID: 16430772
21.  Targeted Deletion of the Extracellular Signal-Regulated Protein Kinase 5 Attenuates Hypertrophic Response, and Promotes Pressure Overload-Induced Apoptosis in the Heart 
Circulation research  2010;106(5):961-970.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways provide a critical connection between extrinsic and intrinsic signals to cardiac hypertrophy. Extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 5 (ERK5), an atypical MAP kinase is activated in the heart by pressure overload. However, the role of ERK5 plays in regulating hypertrophic growth and hypertrophy-induced apoptosis is not completely understood.
Herein, we investigate the in vivo role and signaling mechanism whereby ERK5 regulates cardiac hypertrophy and hypertrophy-induced apoptosis.
Methods and Results
We generated and examined the phenotypes of mice with cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of the erk5 gene (ERK5cko). In response to hypertrophic stress, ERK5cko mice developed less hypertrophic growth and fibrosis than controls. However, increased apoptosis together with upregulated expression levels of p53 and Bad were observed in the mutant hearts. Consistently, we found that silencing ERK5 expression or specific inhibition of its kinase activity using BIX02189 in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (NRCMs) reduced myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2) transcriptional activity and blunted hypertrophic responses. Furthermore, the inhibition of MEF2 activity in NRCMs using a non-DNA binding mutant form of MEF2 was found to attenuate the ERK5-regulated hypertrophic response.
These results reveal an important function of ERK5 in cardiac hypertrophic remodeling and cardiomyocyte survival. The role of ERK5 in hypertrophic remodeling is likely to be mediated via the regulation of MEF2 activity.
PMCID: PMC3003662  PMID: 20075332
Cardiac hypertrophy; signal transduction; genetically modified mice
22.  JNK and ERK MAP kinases mediate induction of IL-1β, TNF-α and IL-8 following hyperosmolar stress in human limbal epithelial cells⋆ 
Experimental eye research  2005;82(4):588-596.
Hyperosmolarity has been recognized to be a pro-inflammatory stress to the corneal epithelium. The cell signalling pathways linking hyperosmolar stress and inflammation have not been well elucidated. This study investigated whether exposure of human limbal epithelial cells to hyperosmotic stress activates the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways and induces production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin (IL) -1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α, and the C-X-C chemokine IL-8. Primary human limbal epithelial cultures in normal osmolar media (312 mOsM) were exposed to media with higher osmolarity (400–500 mOsM) by adding 50–90 mM NaCl, with or without SB202190, an inhibitor of c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK) pathway, PD 98059, an inhibitor of extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, dexamethasone or doxycycline for different lengths of time. The conditioned media were collected after 24 hr of treatment for ELISA. Total RNA was extracted from cultures treated for 6 hr for semi-quantitative RT-PCR. Cells treated for 15–60 min were lysed in RIPA buffer and subjected to Western blot with phospho (p)-specific antibodies against p-JNK and p-ERK. The concentrations of IL-1β, TNF-α and IL-8 proteins in 24 hr conditioned media of limbal epithelial cells progressively increased as the media osmolarity increased from 312 to 500 mOsM. Active p-JNK-1/p-JNK-2 and p-ERK-1/p-ERK-2 were detected by Western blot and peaked at 60 min in cells exposed to hyperosmolar media. The levels of p-JNK-1/p-JNK-2 and p-ERK1/p-ERK2 were positively correlated with the medium osmolarity. SB202190, PD98059 and doxycycline markedly suppressed the levels of p-JNK-1/p-JNK-2 and/or p-ERK1/p-ERK2, as well as IL-1β, TNF-α and IL-8 mRNAs and proteins stimulated by hyperosmolar media. These findings provide direct evidence that hyperosmolarity induces inflammation in human limbal epithelial cells by increasing expression and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, a process that appears to be mediated through activation of the JNK and ERK MAPK signalling pathways. The efficacy of doxycycline in treating ocular surface diseases may be due to its ability to suppress JNK and ERK signalling activation and inflammatory mediator production in the limbal epithelium.
PMCID: PMC2198933  PMID: 16202406
cornea; epithelium; hyperosmolarity; inflammatory cytokine; chemokine; JNK; ERK; MAPK
23.  Increased expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase and its upstream regulating signal in human gastric cancer 
AIM: To investigate the expression of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and its upstream protein kinase in human gastric cancer and to evaluate the relationship between protein levels and clinicopathological parameters.
METHODS: Western blot was used to measure the expression of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-1, ERK-2, ERK-3, p38 and mitogen or ERK activated protein kinaseMEK-1 proteins in surgically resected gastric carcinoma, adjacent normal mucosa and metastatic lymph nodes from 42 patients. Immunohistochemistry was employed for their localization.
RESULTS: Compared with normal tissues, the protein levels of ERK-1 (integral optical density value 159526±65760 vs 122807±65515, P = 0.001), ERK-2 (168471±95051 vs 120469±72874, P<0.001), ERK-3 (118651±71513 vs 70934±68058, P<0.001), P38 (104776±51650 vs 82930±40392, P = 0.048) and MEK-1 (116486±45725 vs 101434±49387, P = 0.027) were increased in gastric cancer tissues. Overexpression of ERK-3 was correlated to TNM staging [average ratio of integral optic density (IOD)tumor: IODnormal in TNM I, II, III, IV tumors was 1.43±0.34, 5.08±3.74, 4.99±1.08, 1.44±1.02, n = 42, P = 0.023] and serosa invasion (4.31±4.34 vs 2.00±2.03, P = 0.037). In poorly differentiated cancers (n = 33), the protein levels of ERK-1 and ERK-2 in stage III and IV tumors were higher than those in stage I and II tumors (2.64±3.01 vs 1.01±0.33, P = 0.022; 2.05±1.54 vs 1.24±0.40, P = 0.030). Gastric cancer tissues with either lymph node involvement (2.49±2.91 vs 1.03±0.36, P = 0.023; 1.98±1.49 vs 1.24±0.44, P = 0.036) or serosa invasion (2.39±2.82 vs 1.01±0.35, P = 0.022; 1.95±1.44 vs 1.14±0.36, P = 0.015) expressed higher protein levels of ERK-1 and ERK-2. In Borrmann II tumors, expression of ERK-2 and ERK-3 was increased compared with Borrmann III tumors (2.57±1.86 vs 1.23±0.60, P = 0.022; 5.50±5.05 vs 1.83±1.21, P = 0.014). Borrmann IV tumors expressed higher p38 protein levels. No statistically significant difference in expression of MAPKs was found when stratified to tumor size or histological grade (P>0.05). Protein levels of ERK-2, ERK-3 and MEK-1 in metastatic lymph nodes were 2-7 folds higher than those in adjacent normal mucosa. The immunohistochemistry demonstrated that ERK-1, ERK-2, ERK-3, p38 and MEK-1 proteins were mainly localized in cytoplasm. The expression of MEK-1 in gastric cancer cells metastasized to lymph nodes was higher than that of the primary site.
CONCLUSION: MAPKs, particularly ERK subclass are overexpressed in the majority of gastric cancers. Overexpression of ERKs is correlated to TNM staging, serosa invasion, and lymph node involvement. The overexpression of p38 most likely plays a prominent role in certain morphological subtypes of gastric cancers. MEK-1 is also overexpressed in gastric cancer, particularly in metastatic lymph nodes. Upregulation of MAPK signal transduction pathways may play an important role in tumorigenesis and metastatic potential of gastric cancer.
PMCID: PMC4250727  PMID: 15655810
Gastric cancer; Mitogen-activated protein kinase; Extracellular signal-regulated kinase; Signal transduction
24.  Intracellular signaling mechanisms regulating the activation of human eosinophils by the novel Th2 cytokine IL-33: implications for allergic inflammation 
The novel interleukin (IL)-1 family cytokine IL-33 has been shown to activate T helper 2 (Th2) lymphocytes, mast cells and basophils to produce an array of proinflammatory cytokines, as well as to mediate blood eosinophilia, IgE secretion and hypertrophy of airway epithelium in mice. In the present study, we characterized the activation of human eosinophils by IL-33, and investigated the underlying intracellular signaling mechanisms. IL-33 markedly enhanced eosinophil survival and upregulated cell surface expression of the adhesion molecule intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 on eosinophils, but it suppressed that of ICAM-3 and L-selectin. In addition, IL-33 mediates significant release of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 and the chemokines CXCL8 and CCL2. We found that IL-33-mediated enhancement of survival, induction of adhesion molecules, and release of cytokines and chemokines were differentially regulated by activation of the nuclear factor (NF)-κB, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathways. Furthermore, we compared the above IL-33 activities with two structurally and functionally related cytokines, IL-1β and IL-18. IL-1β, but not IL-18, markedly upregulated cell surface expression of ICAM-1. IL-1β and IL-18 also significantly enhanced eosinophil survival, and induced the release of IL-6 and chemokines CXCL8 and CCL2 via the activation of the NF-κB, p38 MAPK and ERK pathways. Synergistic effects on the release of IL-6 were also observed in combined treatment with IL-1β, IL-18 and IL-33. Taken together, our findings provide insight into IL-33-mediated activation of eosinophils via differential intracellular signaling cascades in the immunopathogenesis of allergic inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4003257  PMID: 20029461
allergy; cytokines; eosinophils; signal transduction
25.  MAPK Regulation of IL-4/-13 Receptors Contributes to the Synergistic Increase in CCL11/Eotaxin-1 in Response to TGF-β1 and IL-13 in Human Airway Fibroblasts 
CCL11/eotaxin-1 is a potent eosinophilic CC chemokine expressed by primary human fibroblasts. The combination of TGF-β1 and IL-13 synergistically increases CCL11 expression, but the mechanisms behind the synergy are unclear. To address this, human airway fibroblast cultures from normal and asthmatic subjects were exposed to IL-13 alone or TGF-β1 plus IL-13. Transcriptional (nuclear run-on) and post-transcriptional (mRNA stability) assays confirmed that transcriptional regulation is critical for synergistic expression of CCL11. TGF-β1 plus IL-13 synergistically increased STAT-6 phosphorylation, nuclear translocation and binding to the CCL11 promoter as compared to IL-13 alone. STAT-6 siRNA significantly knocked down both STAT-6 mRNA expression and phosphorylation, and inhibited CCL11 mRNA and protein expression.
Regulation of the IL-4 receptor α (IL-4Rα) complex by TGF-β1 augmented IL-13 signaling by dampening IL-13 receptor α2 (IL-13Rα2) expression, overcoming IL-13's autoregulation of its pathway and enhancing the expression of CCL11. Our data suggest that TGF-β1 induced activation of the MEK-ERK pathway reduces IL-13Rα2 expression induced by IL-13. Thus, TGF-β1, a pleiotropic cytokine upregulated in asthmatic airways, can augment eosinophilic inflammation by interfering with IL-13's negative feedback autoregulatory loop under MEK/ERK dependent conditions.
PMCID: PMC3370069  PMID: 22573806
human airway fibroblasts; CCL11/Eotaxin-1; IL-13; TGF-β1; actinomycin D; STAT-6; MEK-ERK; CHIP; siRNA; qRT-PCR; IL-13Rα

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