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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Dec 21;96(26):15127-32.

MEKK1 suppresses oxidative stress-induced apoptosis of embryonic stem cell-derived cardiac myocytes.

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  • 1Program in Molecular Signal Transduction, Division of Basic Sciences, Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, CO 80206, USA.


A combination of in vitro embryonic stem (ES) cell differentiation and targeted gene disruption has defined complex regulatory events underlying oxidative stress-induced cardiac apoptosis, a model of postischemic reperfusion injury of myocardium. ES cell-derived cardiac myocytes (ESCM) having targeted disruption of the MEKK1 gene were extremely sensitive, relative to wild-type ESCM, to hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis. In response to oxidative stress, MEKK1-/- ESCM failed to activate c-Jun kinase (JNK) but did activate p38 kinase similar to that observed in wild-type ESCM. The increased apoptosis was mediated through enhanced tumor necrosis factor alpha production, a response that was positively and negatively regulated by p38 and the MEKK1-JNK pathway, respectively. Thus, MEKK1 functions in the survival of cardiac myocytes by inhibiting the production of a proapoptotic cytokine. MEKK1 regulation of the JNK pathway is a critical response for the protection against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in cardiac myocytes.

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