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Mol Cell Biol. 2003 Nov;23(22):8377-85.

The death domain kinase RIP1 is essential for tumor necrosis factor alpha signaling to p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase.

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Department of Cancer Biology and Interdisciplinary Graduate Program, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Lazare Research Building, Worcester, MA 01605


The cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) stimulates the NF-kappaB, SAPK/JNK, and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathways by recruiting RIP1 and TRAF2 proteins to the tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1). Genetic studies have revealed that RIP1 links the TNFR1 to the IkappaB kinase (IKK) complex, whereas TRAF2 couples the TNFR1 to the SAPK/JNK cascade. In transfection studies, RIP1 and TRAF2 stimulate p38 MAP kinase activation, and dominant-negative forms of RIP1 and TRAF2 inhibit TNF-alpha-induced p38 MAP kinase activation. We found TNF-alpha-induced p38 MAP kinase activation and interleukin-6 (IL-6) production impaired in rip1(-/-) murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEF) but unaffected in traf2(-/-) MEF. Yet, both rip1(-/-) and traf2(-/-) MEF exhibit a normal p38 MAP kinase response to inducers of osmotic shock or IL-1alpha. Thus, RIP1 is a specific mediator of the p38 MAP kinase response to TNF-alpha. These studies suggest that TNF-alpha-induced activation of p38 MAP kinase and SAPK/JNK pathways bifurcate at the level of RIP1 and TRAF2. Moreover, endogenous RIP1 associates with the MAP kinase kinase kinase (MAP3K) MEKK3 in TNF-alpha-treated cells, and decreased TNF-alpha-induced p38 MAP kinase activation is observed in Mekk3(-/-) cells. Taken together, these studies suggest a mechanism whereby RIP1 may mediate the p38 MAP kinase response to TNF-alpha, by recruiting the MAP3K MEKK3.

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