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Exp Cell Res. 1999 Aug 1;250(2):351-63.

p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase functionally contributes to chondrogenesis induced by growth/differentiation factor-5 in ATDC5 cells.

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  • 1Discovery Research Laboratories, Hoechst Marion Roussel Ltd., 3-2, Minamidai 1-chome, Kawagoe, Saitama, 350-1165, Japan.


Recent studies of intracellular signal transduction mechanisms for the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily have focused on Smad proteins, but have paid little attention to mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascades. Here we demonstrate that growth/differentiation factor-5 (GDF-5), but neither bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) nor TGF-beta1, fully promotes the early phase of the chondrogenic response by inducing cellular condensation followed by cartilage nodule formation in a mouse chondrogenic cell line, ATDC5. We investigated which, if any, of the three major types of MAP kinase plays a functional role in the promotion of chondrogenesis induced by GDF-5. GDF-5 induced phosphorylation of p38 MAP kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) but not that of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). The phosphorylation of p38 MAP kinase was also induced by BMP-2 and TGF-beta1. An inhibitor of p38 and p38 beta MAP kinase, SB202190, showed complete inhibition of cartilage nodule formation but failed to affect alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity induced by GDF-5. Expression of the type II collagen gene, a hallmark of chondrogenesis in vertebrates, was also induced by GDF-5 treatment and strongly suppressed by SB202190. On the other hand, although an inhibitor of MAP/ERK kinase, PD98059, inhibited the rapid phosphorylation of ERK by GDF-5, it inhibited neither ALP activity nor cartilage nodule formation induced by GDF-5. These results strongly suggest that the p38 MAP kinase cascade is involved in GDF-5 signaling pathways and that a role of the p38 MAP kinase pathway is necessary over a longer period to promote chondrogenesis in ATDC5 cells.

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