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Nat Cell Biol. 2003 Dec;5(12):1104-10. Epub 2003 Nov 23.

Rac-MEKK3-MKK3 scaffolding for p38 MAPK activation during hyperosmotic shock.

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Department of Pharmacology and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina School of Medicine Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7365, USA.


Sensing the osmolarity of the environment is a critical response for all organisms. Whereas bacteria will migrate away from high osmotic conditions, most eukaryotic cells are not motile and use adaptive metabolic responses for survival. The p38 MAPK pathway is a crucial mediator of survival during cellular stress. We have discovered a novel scaffold protein that binds to actin, the GTPase Rac, and the upstream kinases MEKK3 and MKK3 in the p38 MAPK phospho-relay module. RNA interference (RNAi) demonstrates that MEKK3 and the scaffold protein are required for p38 activation in response to sorbitol-induced hyperosmolarity. FRET identifies a cytoplasmic complex of the MEKK3 scaffold protein that is recruited to dynamic actin structures in response to sorbitol treatment. Through its ability to bind actin, relocalize to Rac-containing membrane ruffles and its obligate requirement for p38 activation in response to sorbitol, we have termed this protein osmosensing scaffold for MEKK3 (OSM). The Rac-OSM-MEKK3-MKK3 complex is the mammalian counterpart of the CDC42-STE50-STE11-Pbs2 complex in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is required for the regulation of p38 activity.

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