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EMBO J. 2004 Jun 2;23(11):2226-34. Epub 2004 Apr 29.

The Caenorhabditis elegans MAPK phosphatase VHP-1 mediates a novel JNK-like signaling pathway in stress response.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Graduate School of Science, Institute for Advanced Research, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan.


Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are integral to the mechanisms by which cells respond to physiological stimuli and to a wide variety of environmental stresses. MAPK cascades can be inactivated at the MAPK activation step by members of the MAPK phosphatase (MKP) family. However, the components that act in MKP-regulated pathways have not been well characterized in the context of whole organisms. Here we characterize the Caenorhabditis elegans vhp-1 gene, encoding an MKP that acts preferentially on the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 MAPKs. We found that animals defective in vhp-1 are arrested during larval development. This vhp-1 defect is suppressed by loss-of-function mutations in the kgb-1, mek-1, and mlk-1 genes encoding a JNK-like MAPK, an MKK7-type MAPKK, and an MLK-type MAPKKK, respectively. The genetic and biochemical data presented here demonstrate a critical role for VHP-1 in the KGB-1 pathway. Loss-of-function mutations in each component in the KGB-1 pathway result in hypersensitivity to heavy metals. These results suggest that VHP-1 plays a pivotal role in the integration and fine-tuning of the stress response regulated by the KGB-1 MAPK pathway.

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