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Blood. 1996 Jun 15;87(12):5287-96.

Activation of MAP kinase-activated protein kinase 2 in human neutrophils after phorbol ester or fMLP peptide stimulation.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, USA.


In response to extracellular stimulation, one of the earliest events in human neutrophils is protein phosphorylation, which mediates signal transduction and leads to the regulation of cellular functions. Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases are rapidly activated by a variety of mitogens, cytokines, and stresses. The activated MAP kinases in turn regulate their substrate molecules by phosphorylation. MAP kinase-activated protein (MAPKAP) kinase 2, a Ser/Thr kinase, has been shown to be phosphorylated by p38 MAP kinase both in vivo and in vitro. Phosphorylation of the Thr-334 site of MAPKAP kinase 2 results in a conformational change with subsequent activation of the enzyme. To better define the role of MAPKAP kinase 2 in the activation of human neutrophils, its enzymatic activity was measured after stimulation by either a phorbol ester (phorbol myristate acetate [PMA]), a potent protein kinase C activator, or the tripeptide fMLP, which is a chemotactic factor. The in vitro kinase assays indicate that both PMA and fMLP stimulated a transient increase in the enzymatic activity of cellular MAPKAP kinase 2. The induced kinase activation was concentration-dependent and reached a maximum at 5 minutes for PMA and 1 minute for fMLP. To identify potential substrate molecules for MAPKAP kinase 2, a highly active kinase mutant was generated by mutating the MAP kinase phosphorylation site in the C-terminal region. The replacement of threonine 334 with alanine resulted in a marked augmentation of catalytic activity. Analysis of in vitro protein phosphorylation in the presence of the active kinase indicates that a 60-kD cytosolic protein (p60) was markedly phosphorylated and served as the major substrate for MAPKAP kinase 2 in human neutrophils. Based on the MAPKAP kinase 2 phosphorylation site of Hsp27, a competitive inhibitory peptide was synthesized. This competitive inhibitory peptide specifically inhibited MAPKAP kinase 2 enzymatic activity, as well as the in vitro and in vivo kinase-induced p60 phosphorylation. To assess the contribution of MAPKAP kinase 2 in neutrophil function, the oxidative burst response after manipulation of endogenous kinase activity was measured. Intracellular delivery of the competitive inhibitory peptide into human neutrophils reduced both PMA- and fMLP-stimulated superoxide anion production. Thus, the results strongly suggest that MAPKAP kinase 2 is involved in the activation of human neutrophils.

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