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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 1998 Sep 18;60(1):57-68.

Differential expression of SAPK isoforms in the rat brain. An in situ hybridisation study in the adult rat brain and during post-natal development.

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Department of Pharmacology, Glaxo Wellcome Medicines Research Centre, Verona, Italy.


MAPK pathways transduce a broad variety of extracellular signals into cellular responses. Despite their pleiotropic effects and their ubiquitous distribution, surprisingly little is known about their involvement in the communication network of nerve cells. As a first step to elucidate the role of MAPK pathways in neuronal signalling, we studied the distribution of SAPK alpha/JNK2, SAPK beta/JNK3, and SAPK gamma/JNK1, three isoforms of SAPK/JNK, a stress-activated MAPK subfamily. We compared the mRNA localisation of the three main isoforms in the adult and developing rat brain using in situ hybridisation. In the adult brain, SAPK alpha and beta were widely but heterogeneously distributed, reproducing the pattern of a probe that does not discriminate the isoforms. Differently, high labelling for the SAPK gamma probe was exclusively localised in the endopiriform nucleus and medial habenula. Intermediate staining was detected in the hippocampus. During post-natal development, SAPK beta showed the same localisation as in the adult. Nevertheless, the semi-quantitative analysis of optical densities showed significantly different mRNA levels. In the adult, SAPK gamma signal was weak, whereas in newborn rats the labelling was intense and widely distributed. SAPK gamma mRNA levels decreased during development, to reach the low signals detected in the adult. These results suggest that in the central nervous system SAPK-type MAP kinases perform significant physiological functions which are particularly relevant during post-natal development. The distinct distribution patterns of SAPK isoforms in the adult rat brain support the hypothesis that separate functions are performed by the products of the three SAPK genes.

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