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J Biol Chem. 2004 Dec 17;279(51):53241-7. Epub 2004 Oct 13.

Streptococcus pneumoniae-induced p38 MAPK-dependent phosphorylation of RelA at the interleukin-8 promotor.

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Department of Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases, Charité, University Medicine Berlin, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany.


Streptococcus pneumoniae is the major cause of community-acquired pneumonia and one of the most common causes of death by infectious disease in industrialized countries. Little is known concerning the mechanisms of target cell activation in this disease. The present study shows that NF-kappaB and p38 MAPK signaling pathways contribute to chemokine synthesis by lung epithelial cells in response to pneumococci. In infected lungs of mice pneumococci stimulate expression of the interleukin (IL)-8 homolog keratinocyte-derived chemokine and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, as well as activate p38 MAPK. Human bronchial epithelium was chosen as a cellular model, because it establishes the first barrier against pathogens, and little is known about its function in innate immunity. Pneumococci infection induces expression of IL-8 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor as well as activation of p38 MAPK in human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B). Inhibition of p38 MAPK activity by SB202190 and SB203580 blocks pneumococci-induced cytokine release. In mouse lungs in vivo as well as in cultured cells, pneumococci activate NF-kappaBinanIkappaB kinase-dependent manner. Inhibition of p38 MAPK by chemical inhibitors or by RNA interference targeting p38alpha reduces pneumococci-induced NF-kappaB-dependent gene transcription. Blockade of p38 activity did not affect inducible nuclear translocation and recruitment of NF-kappaB/RelA to the IL-8 promotor but did reduce the level of phosphorylated RelA (serine 536) at IL-8 promotor and inhibited pneumococci-mediated recruitment of RNA polymerase II to IL-8 promotor. Thus, p38 MAPK contributes to pneumococci-induced chemokine transcription by modulating p65 NF-kappaB-mediated transactivation.

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