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J Biol Chem. 2000 Aug 4;275(31):23814-24.

p38 MAPK and NF-kappa B collaborate to induce interleukin-6 gene expression and release. Evidence for a cytoprotective autocrine signaling pathway in a cardiac myocyte model system.

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  • 1SDSU Heart Institute and The Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182, USA.


In cardiac myocytes, the stimulation of p38 MAPK by the MAPKK, MKK6, activates the transcription factor, NF-kappaB, and protects cells from apoptosis. In the present study in primary neonatal rat cardiac myocytes, constitutively active MKK6, MKK6(Glu), bound to IkappaB kinase (IKK)-beta and stimulated its abilities to phosphorylate IkappaB and to activate NF-kappaB. MKK6(Glu) induced NF-kappaB-dependent interleukin (IL)-6 transcription and IL-6 release in a p38-dependent manner. IL-6 protected myocardial cells against apoptosis. Like IL-6, TNF-alpha, which activates both NF-kappaB and p38, also induced p38-dependent IL-6 expression and release and protected myocytes from apoptotis. While TNF-alpha was relatively ineffective, IL-6 activated myocardial cell STAT3 by about 8-fold, indicating a probable role for this transcription factor in IL-6-mediated protection from apoptosis. TNF-alpha-mediated IL-6 induction was inhibited by a kinase-inactive form of the MAPKKK, TGF-beta activated protein kinase (Tak1), which is known to activate p38 and NF-kappaB in other cell types. Thus, by stimulating both p38 and NF-kappaB, Tak1-activating cytokines, like TNF-alpha, can induce IL-6 expression and release. Moreover, the myocyte-derived IL-6 may then function in an autocrine and/or paracrine fashion to augment myocardial cell survival during stresses that activate p38.

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