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J Immunol. 2002 May 15;168(10):5303-9.

Inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling by chloroquine.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research and Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, 650 Albany Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Previously, we demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory drug chloroquine (CQ) inhibited LPS-induced TNF-alpha transcription. To define further the mechanism of CQ, we studied the effect of this drug on mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways involved in regulation of TNF production. CQ interfered with phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK)1/2 and the ERK-activating kinases mitogen-activating protein/ERK kinase (MEK)1/2. Both CQ and PD98059, a MEK1 inhibitor, reduced luciferase reporter activity driven by human TNF promoter sequences. However, CQ appeared to mediate these effects by deactivating Raf, the upstream activator of MEK. These findings were supported by functional data demonstrating that CQ and PD98059 interfered with TNF expression in several human and murine cell types while neither inhibitor blocked TNF production in murine RAW264.7 macrophages, a cell line that does not require MEK-ERK signaling for TNF production. Finally, we evaluated whether CQ could sensitize HeLa cells to undergo anti-Fas-mediated apoptosis, an effect observed when ERK activation is interrupted in this cell line. CQ rendered HeLa cells sensitive to anti-Fas treatment in a manner similar to PD98059. Taken together, these data argue that therapeutic concentrations of CQ interfere with ERK activation by a novel mechanism, an effect that could be responsible, at least in part, for the potent anti-inflammatory effects of this drug.

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