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J Biol Chem. 1998 Apr 24;273(17):10232-9.

Early activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase and p38 kinase regulate cell survival in response to tumor necrosis factor alpha.

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Chiron Technologies, Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, California 94608, USA.


Fas ligand and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) bind to members of the TNF receptor superfamily. Stimulation by Fas ligand results in apoptosis, whereas TNF induces multiple effects including proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Activation of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 kinase pathways is common to Fas and TNF signaling; however, their role in apoptosis is controversial. Fas receptor cross-linking induces apoptosis in the absence of actinomycin D and activates JNK in a caspase-dependent manner. In contrast, TNF requires actinomycin D for apoptosis and activates JNK and p38 kinase with biphasic kinetics. The first phase is transient, precedes apoptosis, and is caspase-independent, whereas the second phase is coincident with apoptosis and is caspase-dependent. Inhibition of early TNF-induced JNK and p38 kinases using MKK4/MKK6 mutants or the p38 inhibitor SB203580 increases TNF-induced apoptosis, whereas expression of wild type MKK4/MKK6 enhances survival. In contrast, the Mek inhibitor PD098059 has no effect on survival. These results demonstrate that early activation of p38 kinase (but not Mek) are necessary to protect cells from TNF-mediated cytotoxicity. Thus, early stress kinase activation initiated by TNF plays a key role in regulating apoptosis.

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