p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases

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P38 mitogen-activated protein kinases are a class of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) that are responsive to stress stimuli, such as cytokines, ultraviolet irradiation, heat shock, and osmotic shock, and are involved in cell differentiation, apoptosis and autophagy. Persistent activation of the p38 MAPK pathway in muscle satellite cells (muscle stem cells) due to ageing, impairs muscle regeneration.[1]

p38 MAP Kinase (MAPK), also called RK or CSBP (Cytokinin Specific Binding Protein), is the mammalian orthologue of the yeast Hog1p MAP kinase,[2] which participates in a signaling cascade controlling cellular responses to cytokines and stress.

Four p38 MAP kinases, p38-α (MAPK14), -β (MAPK11), -γ (MAPK12 / ERK6), and -δ (MAPK13 / SAPK4), have been identified. Similar to the SAPK/JNK pathway, p38 MAP kinase is activated by a variety of cellular stresses including osmotic shock, inflammatory cytokines, lipopolysaccharides (LPS), Ultraviolet light, and growth factors.

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MKK3 and SEK activate p38 MAP kinase by phosphorylation at Thr-180 and Tyr-182. Activated p38 MAP kinase has been shown to phosphorylate and activate MAPKAP kinase 2 and to phosphorylate the transcription factors ATF2, Mac and MEF2. p38 also has been shown to phosphorylate post-transcriptional regulating factors like TTP.[3]

Pathology associated with dysregulation of P38 enzymatic activity

Abnormal activity (higher or lower than physiological) of P38 has been implicated in pathological events in several tissues, that include neuronal [4][5][6] bone,[7] lung [8] cardiac and skeletal muscle,[9][10] red blood cells,[11] and fetal tissues.[12] The protein product of Proto-oncogene RAS can increase activity of p38, and thereby cause excessively high activity of transcription factor NF-κB. This transcription factor is normally regulated from intracellular pathways that integrate signals from the surrounding tissue and the immune system. In turn these signals coordinate between cell survival and cell death. Dysregulated NF-κB activity can activate genes that cause cancer cell survival, and can also activate genes that facilitate cancer cell metastasis to other tissues.[13]

P38 inhibitors

P38 inhibitors are being sought for possible therapeutic effect on autoimmune diseases and inflammatory processes,[14] e.g. pamapimod.[15] Some have started clinical trials, e.g. PH-797804 for COPD.[16] Other p38 inhibitors include BIRB 796, VX-702, SB239063, SB202190, SB203580, SCIO 469, and BMS 582949.


  1. Segalés J, Perdiguero E, Muñoz-Cánoves P (2016). "Regulation of Muscle Stem Cell Functions: A Focus on the p38 MAPK Signaling Pathway". Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. 4: 91. PMC 5003838Freely accessible. PMID 27626031. doi:10.3389/fcell.2016.00091. 
  2. Han J, Lee JD, Bibbs L, Ulevitch RJ (August 1994). "A MAP kinase targeted by endotoxin and hyperosmolarity in mammalian cells". Science. 265 (5173): 808–11. PMID 7914033. doi:10.1126/science.7914033. 
  3. Tudor C, Marchese FP, Hitti E, Aubareda A, Rawlinson L, Gaestel M, Blackshear PJ, Clark AR, Saklatvala J, Dean JL (June 2009). "The p38 MAPK pathway inhibits tristetraprolin-directed decay of interleukin-10 and pro-inflammatory mediator mRNAs in murine macrophages". FEBS Lett. 583 (12): 1933–8. PMID 19416727. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2009.04.039. 
  4. Yan, SD (2009). "RAGE and Alzheimer's disease: a progression factor for amyloid-beta-induced cellular perturbation?". J Alzheimers Dis. 16: 833–843. PMID 19387116. doi:10.3233/JAD-2009-1030. 
  5. Bachstetter, AD (2011). "Microglial p38α MAPK is a key regulator of proinflammatory cytokine up-regulation induced by toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands or beta-amyloid (Aβ).". J Neuroinflammation. 8: 79. PMID 21733175. doi:10.1186/1742-2094-8-79. 
  6. Zhou, Z (2017). "Retention of normal glia function by an isoform-selective protein kinase inhibitor drug candidate that modulates cytokine production and cognitive outcomes.". J Neuroinflammation. 14: 75. PMID 28381303. doi:10.1186/s12974-017-0845-2. 
  7. Wei, S; Siegal, GP (2008). "Mechanisms modulating inflammatory osteolysis: a review with insights into therapeutic targets.". Pathol Res Pract. 204: 695–706. PMID 18757139. doi:10.1016/j.prp.2008.07.002. 
  8. Barnes, PJ (2016). "Kinases as Novel Therapeutic Targets in Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.". Pharmacol. Rev. 68: 788–815. PMID 27363440. doi:10.1124/pr.116.012518. 
  9. Wang, S (2016). "The Role of p38 MAPK in the Development of Diabetic Cardiomyopathy.". Int J Mol Sci. 17: E1037. PMID 27376265. doi:10.3390/ijms17071037. 
  10. Segalés, J (August 2016). "Regulation of Muscle Stem Cell Functions: A Focus on the p38 MAPK Signaling Pathway.". Front Cell Dev Biol. 4: 91. PMID 27626031. doi:10.3389/fcell.2016.00091. 
  11. Lang, E (Oct 2017). "Suicidal death of erythrocytes in cancer and its chemotherapy: A potential target in the treatment of tumor-associated anemia.". Int J Cancer. 141: 1522–1528. PMID 28542880. doi:10.1002/ijc.30800. 
  12. Bonney, EA (2017). "Mapping out p38MAPK.". Am J Reprod Immunol. 77 (5). PMID 28194826. doi:10.1111/aji.12652. 
  13. Vlahopoulos, SA (August 2017). "Aberrant control of NF-κB in cancer permits transcriptional and phenotypic plasticity, to curtail dependence on host tissue: molecular mode.". Cancer biology & medicine. 14: 254–270. PMC 5570602Freely accessible. PMID 28884042. doi:10.20892/j.issn.2095-3941.2017.0029. 
  14. Goldstein DM, Gabriel T (2005). "Pathway to the clinic: inhibition of P38 MAP kinase. A review of ten chemotypes selected for development". Current topics in medicinal chemistry. 5 (10): 1017–29. PMID 16178744. doi:10.2174/1568026054985939. 
  15. Hill RJ, Dabbagh K, Phippard D, Li C, Suttmann RT, Welch M, Papp E, Song KW, Chang KC, Leaffer D, Kim YN, Roberts RT, Zabka TS, Aud D, Dal Porto J, Manning AM, Peng SL, Goldstein DM, Wong BR (December 2008). "Pamapimod, a novel p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor: preclinical analysis of efficacy and selectivity". J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 327 (3): 610–9. PMID 18776065. doi:10.1124/jpet.108.139006. 
  16. "Novel p38 Inhibitor Shows Promise as Anti-Inflammatory Treatment for Patients With COPD". 2010. 

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