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Eur J Pharmacol. 2007 Nov 14;573(1-3):29-38. Epub 2007 Jul 4.

Histone H3 phosphorylation at serine 10 and serine 28 is mediated by p38 MAPK in rat hepatocytes exposed to ethanol and acetaldehyde.

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  • 1Department of Medical Pharmacology & Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Missouri-Columbia, One hospital Drive, M526 Medical Science Building, Columbia, MO 65212, USA.


Ethanol modulates mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). We have now investigated the influence of ethanol and its metabolite, acetaldehyde on histone H3 phosphorylation to ascertain downstream targets of MAPKs. In primary culture of rat hepatocytes, ethanol and acetaldehyde increased phosphorylation of nuclear histone H3 at serine 10 and serine 28. Specific inhibitors of p38 MAPK, SB203580, PD169316 and SB202190 blocked this phosphorylation. The inactive analogue, SB202474 had no effect. In contrast, c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor, SP600125 or MAP/ERK kinase (MEK) 1/2 inhibitor, PD98059 had no effect on the histone H3 phosphorylation. The p38 MAPK activation correlated with upstream activation of MAPK kinase (MKK) 3/6 but was independent of protein synthesis. In the nuclear fraction, the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and its protein level increased with peak activation at 24 h by ethanol and at 30 min by acetaldehyde. These responses were ethanol and acetaldehyde dose dependent. Surprisingly, the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK was undetectable in the cytosolic fraction suggesting a subcellular selectivity of p38 MAPK signaling. The phosphorylation of JNK and p42/44 MAPK and their protein levels also increased in the nuclear fraction. Although ethanol caused translocation of all three major MAPKs (p42/44 MAPK, JNK, p38 MAPK) into the nucleus, histone H3 phosphorylation at serine 10 and serine 28 was mediated by p38 MAPK. This histone H3 phosphorylation had no influence on ethanol and acetaldehyde induced apoptosis. These studies demonstrate for the first time that ethanol and acetaldehyde stimulated phosphorylation of histone H3 at serine 10 and serine 28 are downstream nuclear response mediated by p38 MAPK in hepatocytes.

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