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Cancer Res. 1998 Oct 1;58(19):4297-300.

Activation of JNK and p38 but not ERK MAP kinases in human skin cells by 5-aminolevulinate-photodynamic therapy.

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Institut für Physiologische Chemie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany.


5-Aminolevulinate (ALA) photodynamic therapy (PDT) is being used clinically for the treatment of skin cancers. ALA is applied as a precursor of porphyrins serving as endogenous photosensitizers. Irradiation of HaCaT cells preincubated with 1 mM ALA for 24 h with red light of 570-750 nm at a dose of 4.5 J/cm2 leads to a 6-fold elevation of cellular c-Jun N-terminal kinase activity; phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is enhanced to a similar extent. In contrast, neither activation nor increased phosphorylation of the extracellular stimulus-regulated kinase MAPKs is detected. p38 is also phosphorylated by ALA-PDT in the human melanoma cell lines Bro and SkMel-23, applying doses that lead to 80-95% cell death after 24 h. Hence, the effects of ALA-PDT on MAPKs are similar to stresses like UV irradiation or exposure to hydrogen peroxide with respect to activation of JNK and p38 MAPKs. They are different, however, in that extracellular stimulus-regulated kinase activity is not raised by ALA-PDT. Of the 830 pmol porphyrins/mg protein that were present at 24 h in HaCaT cells, 99 pmol/mg were intracellular. When extracellular porphyrins had been removed by washing, p38 responses were retained. Thus, intracellular porphyrins synthesized from ALA are sufficient to elicit activation of p38 on photosensitization.

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