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J Biol Chem. 2002 Aug 23;277(34):30792-7. Epub 2002 Jun 19.

Activation of the p38 signaling pathway by heat shock involves the dissociation of glutathione S-transferase Mu from Ask1.

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  • 1Centre de recherche en cancérologie de l'Université Laval, L'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec, Quebec G1R 2J6, Canada.


Despite the importance of the stress-activated protein kinase pathways in cell death and survival, it is unclear how stressful stimuli lead to their activation. In the case of heat shock, the existence of a specific mechanism of activation has been evidenced, but the molecular nature of this pathway is undefined. Here, we found that Ask1 (apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1), an upstream activator of the stress-activated protein kinase p38 during exposure to oxidative stress and other stressful stimuli, was also activated by heat shock. Ask1 activity was required for p38 activation since overexpression of a kinase dead mutant of Ask1, Ask1(K709M), inhibited heat shock-induced p38 activation. The activation of Ask1 by oxidative stress involves the oxidation of thioredoxin, an endogenous inhibitor of Ask1. A different activation mechanism takes place during heat shock. In contrast to p38 induction by H(2)O(2), induction by heat shock was not antagonized by pretreatment with the antioxidant N-acetyl-l-cysteine or by overexpressing thioredoxin and was not accompanied by the dissociation of thioredoxin from Ask1. Instead, heat shock caused the dissociation of glutathione S-transferase Mu1-1 (GSTM1-1) from Ask1 and overexpression of GSTM1-1-inhibited induction of p38 by heat shock. We concluded that because of an alternative regulation by the two distinct repressors thioredoxin and GSTM1-1, Ask1 constitutes the converging point of the heat shock and oxidative stress-sensing pathways that lead to p38 activation.

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