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The loss of c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase activity prevents the amyloidogenic cleavage of amyloid precursor protein and the formation of amyloid plaques in vivo

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:06pm

Phosphorylation plays a central role in the dynamic regulation of the processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the production of amyloid-beta (Abeta), one of the clinically most important factors that determine the onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD). This has led to the hypothesis that aberrant Abeta production associated with AD results from regulatory defects in signal transduction. However, conflicting findings have raised a debate over the identity of the signaling pathway that controls APP metabolism. Here, we demonstrate that activation of the c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK) is essential for mediating the apoptotic response of neurons to Abeta. Furthermore, we discovered that the functional loss of JNK signaling in neurons significantly decreased the number of amyloid plaques present in the brain of mice carrying familial AD-linked mutant genes. This correlated with a reduction in Abeta production. Biochemical analyses indicate that the phosphorylation of APP at threonine 668 by JNK is required for gamma-mediated cleavage of the C-terminal fragment of APP produced by beta-secretase. Overall, this study provides genetic evidence that JNK signaling is required for the formation of amyloid plaques in vivo. Therefore, inhibition of increased JNK activity associated with aging or with a pathological condition constitutes a potential strategy for the treatment of AD.

TNF-stimulated MAP kinase activation mediated by a Rho family GTPase signaling pathway

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:05pm

The biological response to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) involves activation of MAP kinases. Here we report a mechanism of MAP kinase activation by TNF that is mediated by the Rho GTPase family members Rac/Cdc42. This signaling pathway requires Src-dependent activation of the guanosine nucleotide exchange factor Vav, activation of Rac/Cdc42, and the engagement of the Rac/Cdc42 interaction site (CRIB motif) on mixed-lineage protein kinases (MLKs). We show that this pathway is essential for full MAP kinase activation during the response to TNF. Moreover, this MLK pathway contributes to inflammation in vivo.

MLK3 regulates bone development downstream of the faciogenital dysplasia protein FGD1 in mice

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:05pm

Mutations in human FYVE, RhoGEF, and PH domain-containing 1 (FGD1) cause faciogenital dysplasia (FGDY; also known as Aarskog syndrome), an X-linked disorder that affects multiple skeletal structures. FGD1 encodes a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) that specifically activates the Rho GTPase CDC42. However, the mechanisms by which mutations in FGD1 affect skeletal development are unknown. Here, we describe what we believe to be a novel signaling pathway in osteoblasts initiated by FGD1 that involves the MAP3K mixed-lineage kinase 3 (MLK3). We observed that MLK3 functions downstream of FGD1 to regulate ERK and p38 MAPK, which in turn phosphorylate and activate the master regulator of osteoblast differentiation, Runx2. Mutations in FGD1 found in individuals with FGDY ablated its ability to activate MLK3. Consistent with our description of this pathway and the phenotype of patients with FGD1 mutations, mice with a targeted deletion of Mlk3 displayed multiple skeletal defects, including dental abnormalities, deficient calvarial mineralization, and reduced bone mass. Furthermore, mice with knockin of a mutant Mlk3 allele that is resistant to activation by FGD1/CDC42 displayed similar skeletal defects, demonstrating that activation of MLK3 specifically by FGD1/CDC42 is important for skeletal mineralization. Thus, our results provide a putative biochemical mechanism for the skeletal defects in human FGDY and suggest that modulating MAPK signaling may benefit these patients.

Fungal allergen beta-glucans trigger p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-mediated IL-6 translation in lung epithelial cells

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:04pm

In addition to immune cells, airway epithelial cells can contribute to and shape the immune response in the lung by secreting specific cytokines. IL-6 is a key factor in determining the effector fate of CD4(+) T cells. Here we show that under basal conditions, the IL-6 gene is already highly expressed in lung epithelial cells, but not in immune cells resident in the lung. However, upon exposure of the lungs to fungal allergens, the direct contact of beta-glucans present in the fungus cell wall with lung epithelial cells is sufficient to trigger the rapid synthesis and secretion of IL-6 protein. This posttranscriptional regulation of IL-6 in response to fungal extracts is mediated by the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. The inhalation of beta-glucans with a nonallergenic antigen is sufficient to provide an adjuvant effect that leads to mucous hyperplasia in the airways. Thus, beta-glucans may constitute a common determinant of the fungal and plant-derived allergens responsible for some of the pathological features in allergic asthma.

Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) protein degradation in response to persistent c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) activation contributes to hepatic steatosis in obesity

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:04pm

SIRT1 is involved in the pathogenesis of obesity, diabetes, and aging. However, it is not clear how SIRT1 activity is regulated by intracellular kinases in cells. In this study, we investigated SIRT1 phosphorylation and protein degradation in response to JNK1 activation in obese mice. Mouse SIRT1 is phosphorylated by JNK1 at Ser-46 (Ser-47 in human SIRT1), which is one of the four potential residues targeted by JNK1. The phosphorylation induces a brief activation of SIRT1 function and degradation of SIRT1 thereafter by the proteasome. Ubiquitination occurs in SIRT1 protein after the phosphorylation. Mutation of Ser-46 to alanine prevents the phosphorylation, ubiquitination, and degradation. In vivo, SIRT1 undergoes an extensive degradation in hepatocytes in obesity as a consequence of persistent activation of JNK1. The degradation leads to inhibition of SIRT1 function, which contributes to development of hepatic steatosis. The degradation disappears in obesity when JNK1 is inactivated in mice. JNK2 exhibits an opposite activity in the regulation of SIRT1 degradation. The JNK1-SIRT1 pathway provides a new molecular mechanism for the pathogenesis of hepatic steatosis in obesity.

p38alpha Signaling Induces Anoikis and Lumen Formation During Mammary Morphogenesis

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:04pm

The stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) p38 can induce apoptosis, and its inhibition facilitates mammary tumorigenesis. We found that during mammary acinar morphogenesis in MCF-10A cells grown in three-dimensional culture, detachment of luminal cells from the basement membrane stimulated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinases 3 and 6 (MKK3/6) and p38alpha signaling to promote anoikis. p38alpha signaling increased transcription of the death-promoting protein BimEL by phosphorylating the activating transcription factor 2 (ATF-2) and increasing c-Jun protein abundance, leading to cell death by anoikis and acinar lumen formation. Inhibition of p38alpha or ATF-2 caused luminal filling reminiscent of that observed in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The mammary glands of MKK3/6 knockout mice (MKK3(-/-)/MKK6(+/- )) showed accelerated branching morphogenesis relative to those of wild-type mice, as well as ductal lumen occlusion due to reduced anoikis. This phenotype was recapitulated by systemic pharmacological inhibition of p38alpha and beta (p38alpha/beta) in wild-type mice. Moreover, the development of DCIS-like lesions showing marked ductal occlusion was accelerated in MMTV-Neu transgenic mice treated with inhibitors of p38alpha and p38beta. We conclude that p38alpha is crucial for the development of hollow ducts during mammary gland development, a function that may be crucial to its ability to suppress breast cancer.

Translational control of NKT cell cytokine production by p38 MAPK

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:04pm

NKT cells are known to rapidly produce a large amount of cytokines upon activation. Although a number of signaling pathways that regulate the development of NKT cells have been identified, the signaling pathways involved in the regulation of NKT cell cytokine production remain unclear. In this study, we show that the p38 MAPK pathway is dispensable for the development of NKT cells. However, NKT cell cytokine production and NKT-mediated liver damage are highly dependent on activation of this pathway. p38 MAPK does not substantially affect cytokine gene expression in NKT cells, but it regulates the synthesis of cytokines through the Mnk-eIF4E pathway. Thus, in addition to gene expression, translational regulation by p38 MAPK could be a novel mechanism that contributes to the overall production of cytokine by NKT cells.

Deprivation of MKK7 in cardiomyocytes provokes heart failure in mice when exposed to pressure overload

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:03pm

There is little doubt that members of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) families play key roles in the transition from adaptive hypertrophic remodeling to heart failure. Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 7 (MKK7) is a critical component of stress-activated MAP kinase signaling pathway. The role of MKK7 plays in mediating cardiac remodeling in response to load stress has yet to be defined. Herein, we investigate the role of MKK7 in regulating cardiac remodeling in response to pressure overload. We generated and examined the phenotype of mice with cardiomyocyte-specific deletion of the mkk7 gene (MKK7(cko)). Following one week of pressure overload, MKK7(cko) mice exhibited characteristic phenotypes of heart failure evidenced by deterioration in ventricular function and pulmonary congestion. Cell death assays revealed an increased prevalence of cardiomyocyte apoptosis in the MKK7(cko) heart, in which elevated p53 levels and attenuated expression of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) were found. Moreover, extensive interstitial fibrosis was discovered in the knockout heart likely attributable to upregulation of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling. These results reveal an essential role of MKK7 in cardiomyocytes for protecting the heart from hypertrophic insults thereby preventing the transition to heart failure.

The role of JNK in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:03pm

The cJun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) signal transduction pathway has been implicated in the growth of carcinogen-induced hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the mechanism that accounts for JNK-regulated tumor growth is unclear. Here we demonstrate that compound deficiency of the two ubiquitously expressed JNK isoforms (JNK1 and JNK2) in hepatocytes does not prevent hepatocellular carcinoma development. Indeed, JNK deficiency in hepatocytes increased the tumor burden. In contrast, compound JNK deficiency in hepatocytes and nonparenchymal cells reduced both hepatic inflammation and tumorigenesis. These data indicate that JNK plays a dual role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. JNK promotes an inflammatory hepatic environment that supports tumor development, but also functions in hepatocytes to reduce tumor development.

Requirement of c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase for Ras-initiated tumor formation

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:03pm

The c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) signal transduction pathway causes increased gene expression mediated, in part, by members of the activating transcription factor protein (AP1) group. JNK is therefore implicated in the regulation of cell growth and cancer. To test the role of JNK in Ras-induced tumor formation, we examined the effect of compound ablation of the ubiquitously expressed genes Jnk1 plus Jnk2. We report that JNK is required for Ras-induced transformation of p53-deficient primary cells in vitro. Moreover, JNK is required for lung tumor development caused by mutational activation of the endogenous KRas gene in vivo. Together, these data establish that JNK plays a key role in Ras-induced tumorigenesis.

JNK regulates FoxO-dependent autophagy in neurons

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:03pm

The cJun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signal transduction pathway is implicated in the regulation of neuronal function. JNK is encoded by three genes that play partially redundant roles. Here we report the creation of mice with targeted ablation of all three Jnk genes in neurons. Compound JNK-deficient neurons are dependent on autophagy for survival. This autophagic response is caused by FoxO-induced expression of Bnip3 that displaces the autophagic effector Beclin-1 from inactive Bcl-XL complexes. These data identify JNK as a potent negative regulator of FoxO-dependent autophagy in neurons.

AKAP-Lbc enhances cyclic AMP control of the ERK1/2 cascade

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:02pm

Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades propagate a variety of cellular activities. Processive relay of signals through RAF-MEK-ERK modulates cell growth and proliferation. Signalling through this ERK cascade is frequently amplified in cancers, and drugs such as sorafenib (which is prescribed to treat renal and hepatic carcinomas) and PLX4720 (which targets melanomas) inhibit RAF kinases. Natural factors that influence ERK1/2 signalling include the second messenger cyclic AMP. However, the mechanisms underlying this cascade have been difficult to elucidate. We demonstrate that the A-kinase-anchoring protein AKAP-Lbc and the scaffolding protein kinase suppressor of Ras (KSR-1) form the core of a signalling network that efficiently relay signals from RAF, through MEK, and on to ERK1/2. AKAP-Lbc functions as an enhancer of ERK signalling by securing RAF in the vicinity of MEK1 and synchronizing protein kinase A (PKA)-mediated phosphorylation of Ser 838 on KSR-1. This offers mechanistic insight into cAMP-responsive control of ERK signalling events.

Keep the 'phospho' on MAPK, be happy

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:02pm

Depression ruins the lives of millions of people, causing dysphoria and anguish. New findings in rodents and human brain shed light on the mechanisms of this disease, uncovering a phosphatase as a new target to treat depressive behaviors. Comment on: A negative regulator of MAP kinase causes depressive behavior. [Nat Med. 2010]

Hippocampal c-Jun-N-terminal kinases serve as negative regulators of associative learning

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:02pm

In the adult mouse, signaling through c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) links exposure to acute stress to various physiological responses. Inflammatory cytokines, brain injury and ischemic insult, or exposure to psychological acute stressors induce activation of hippocampal JNKs. Here we report that exposure to acute stress caused activation of JNKs in the hippocampal CA1 and CA3 subfields, and impaired contextual fear conditioning. Conversely, intrahippocampal injection of JNKs inhibitors sp600125 (30 mum) or D-JNKI1 (8 mum) reduced activity of hippocampal JNKs and rescued stress-induced deficits in contextual fear. In addition, intrahippocampal administration of anisomycin (100 mug/mul), a potent JNKs activator, mimicked memory-impairing effects of stress on contextual fear. This anisomycin-induced amnesia was abolished after cotreatment with JNKs selective inhibitor sp600125 without affecting anisomycin's ability to effectively inhibit protein synthesis as measured by c-Fos immunoreactivity. We also demonstrated milder and transient activation of the JNKs pathway in the CA1 subfield of the hippocampus during contextual fear conditioning and an enhancement of contextual fear after pharmacological inhibition of JNKs under baseline conditions. Finally, using combined biochemical and transgenic approaches with mutant mice lacking different members of the JNK family (Jnk1, Jnk2, and Jnk3), we provided evidence that JNK2 and JNK3 are critically involved in stress-induced deficit of contextual fear, while JNK1 mainly regulates baseline learning in this behavioral task. Together, these results support the possibility that hippocampal JNKs serve as a critical molecular regulator in the formation of contextual fear.

Requirement of JIP1-mediated c-Jun N-terminal kinase activation for obesity-induced insulin resistance

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:01pm

The c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) interacting protein 1 (JIP1) has been proposed to act as a scaffold protein that mediates JNK activation. However, recent studies have implicated JIP1 in multiple biochemical processes. Physiological roles of JIP1 that are related to the JNK scaffold function of JIP1 are therefore unclear. To test the role of JIP1 in JNK activation, we created mice with a germ line point mutation in the Jip1 gene (Thr(103) replaced with Ala) that selectively blocks JIP1-mediated JNK activation. These mutant mice exhibit a severe defect in JNK activation caused by feeding of a high-fat diet. The loss of JIP1-mediated JNK activation protected the mutant mice against obesity-induced insulin resistance. We conclude that JIP1-mediated JNK activation plays a critical role in metabolic stress regulation of the JNK signaling pathway.

The p38 MAPK pathway is essential for skeletogenesis and bone homeostasis in mice

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:01pm

Nearly every extracellular ligand that has been found to play a role in regulating bone biology acts, at least in part, through MAPK pathways. Nevertheless, much remains to be learned about the contribution of MAPKs to osteoblast biology in vivo. Here we report that the p38 MAPK pathway is required for normal skeletogenesis in mice, as mice with deletion of any of the MAPK pathway member-encoding genes MAPK kinase 3 (Mkk3), Mkk6, p38a, or p38b displayed profoundly reduced bone mass secondary to defective osteoblast differentiation. Among the MAPK kinase kinase (MAP3K) family, we identified TGF-beta-activated kinase 1 (TAK1; also known as MAP3K7) as the critical activator upstream of p38 in osteoblasts. Osteoblast-specific deletion of Tak1 resulted in clavicular hypoplasia and delayed fontanelle fusion, a phenotype similar to the cleidocranial dysplasia observed in humans haploinsufficient for the transcription factor runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2). Mechanistic analysis revealed that the TAK1-MKK3/6-p38 MAPK axis phosphorylated Runx2, promoting its association with the coactivator CREB-binding protein (CBP), which was required to regulate osteoblast genetic programs. These findings reveal an in vivo function for p38beta and establish that MAPK signaling is essential for bone formation in vivo. These results also suggest that selective p38beta agonists may represent attractive therapeutic agents to prevent bone loss associated with osteoporosis and aging.

Distinct roles of c-Jun N-terminal kinase isoforms in neurite initiation and elongation during axonal regeneration

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:00pm

c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) (comprising JNK1-3 isoforms) are members of the MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) family, activated in response to various stimuli including growth factors and inflammatory cytokines. Their activation is facilitated by scaffold proteins, notably JNK-interacting protein-1 (JIP1). Originally considered to be mediators of neuronal degeneration in response to stress and injury, recent studies support a role of JNKs in early stages of neurite outgrowth, including adult axonal regeneration. However, the function of individual JNK isoforms, and their potential effector molecules, remained unknown. Here, we analyzed the role of JNK signaling during axonal regeneration from adult mouse dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, combining pharmacological JNK inhibition and mice deficient for each JNK isoform and for JIP1. We demonstrate that neuritogenesis is delayed by lack of JNK2 and JNK3, but not JNK1. JNK signaling is further required for sustained neurite elongation, as pharmacological JNK inhibition resulted in massive neurite retraction. This function relies on JNK1 and JNK2. Neurite regeneration of jip1(-/-) DRG neurons is affected at both initiation and extension stages. Interestingly, activated JNKs (phospho-JNKs), as well as JIP1, are also present in the cytoplasm of sprouting or regenerating axons, suggesting a local action on cytoskeleton proteins. Indeed, we have shown that JNK1 and JNK2 regulate the phosphorylation state of microtubule-associated protein MAP1B, whose role in axonal regeneration was previously characterized. Moreover, lack of MAP1B prevents neurite retraction induced by JNK inhibition. Thus, signaling by individual JNKs is differentially implicated in the reorganization of the cytoskeleton, and neurite regeneration.

cJun NH2-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1): roles in metabolic regulation of insulin resistance

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:00pm

The cJun NH(2)-terminal kinase isoform JNK1 is implicated in the mechanism of obesity-induced insulin resistance. Feeding a high-fat diet causes activation of the JNK1 signaling pathway, insulin resistance, and obesity in mice. Germ-line ablation of Jnk1 prevents both diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. Genetic analysis indicates that the effects of JNK1 on insulin resistance can be separated from effects of JNK1 on obesity. Emerging research indicates that JNK1 plays multiple roles in the regulation of insulin resistance, including altered gene expression, hormone/cytokine production, and lipid metabolism. Together, these studies establish JNK1 as a potential pharmacological target for the development of drugs that might be useful for the treatment of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

JNK-mediated phosphorylation of Cdc25C regulates cell cycle entry and G(2)/M DNA damage checkpoint

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:00pm

c-Jun NH(2)-terminal Kinases (JNKs) play a central role in the cellular response to a wide variety of stress signals. After their activation, JNKs induce phosphorylation of substrates, which control proliferation, migration, survival, and differentiation. Recent studies suggest that JNKs may also play a role in cell cycle control, although the underlying mechanisms are largely unexplored. Here we show that JNK directly phosphorylates Cdc25C at serine 168 during G(2) phase of the cell cycle. Cdc25C phosphorylation by JNK negatively regulates its phosphatase activity and thereby Cdk1 activation, enabling a timely control of mitosis onset. Unrestrained phosphorylation by JNK, as obtained by a cell cycle-stabilized form of JNK or as seen in some human tumors, results in aberrant cell cycle progression. Additionally, UV irradiation-induced G(2)/M checkpoint requires inactivation of Cdc25C by JNK phosphorylation. JNK phosphorylation of Cdc25C as well as Cdc25A establishes a novel link between stress signaling and unperturbed cell cycle and checkpoint pathways.

Staufen Negatively Modulates microRNA Activity in Caenorhabditis elegans

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 12:01pm

The double-stranded RNA-binding protein Staufen has been implicated in various post-transcriptional gene regulatory processes. Here we demonstrate that the Caenorhabditis elegans homolog of Staufen, STAU-1, functionally interacts with microRNAs. Loss-of-function mutations of stau-1 significantly suppress phenotypes of let-7 family microRNA mutants, a hypomorphic allele of dicer and a lsy-6 microRNA partial loss-of-function mutant. Furthermore, STAU-1 modulates the activity of lin-14, a target of lin-4 and let-7 family microRNAs, and this modulation is abolished when the 3' untranslated region of lin-14 is removed. Deep sequencing of small RNA cDNA libraries reveals no dramatic change in the levels of microRNAs, or other small RNA populations between wild type and stau-1 mutant, with the exception of certain endogenous siRNAs in the WAGO pathway. The modulation of microRNA activity by STAU-1 does not seem to be associated with the previously reported enhanced exogenous RNAi (Eri) phenotype of stau-1 mutants since eri-1 exhibits the opposite effect on microRNA activity. Altogether, our results suggest that STAU-1 negatively modulates microRNA activity downstream of biogenesis, possibly by competing with microRNAs for binding on the 3' untranslated region of target mRNAs.