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Open Access Short Report

Differential regulation of anti-inflammatory genes by p38 MAP kinase and MAP kinase kinase 6

Deepa Hammaker*, David L Boyle, Katharyn Topolewski and Gary S Firestein

Author Affiliations

University of California San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA, USA

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Journal of Inflammation 2014, 11:14  doi:10.1186/1476-9255-11-14

Published: 16 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Conventional p38α inhibitors have limited efficacy in rheumatoid arthritis, possibly because p38 blockade suppresses the counter-regulatory mechanisms that limit inflammation. In contrast, targeting the upstream MAP kinase kinases, MKK3 and MKK6, partially maintains p38-mediated anti-inflammatory responses in bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM). In this study, we explored the mechanisms that preserve anti-inflammatory gene expression by evaluating differential regulation of IL-10 and p38-dependent anti-inflammatory genes in MKK3−/−, MKK6−/−, and p38 inhibitor-treated wildtype cells.

Methods

BMDM from wild type (WT), MKK3−/−, and MKK6−/− mice were pre-treated with p38 inhibitor SB203580 (SB), JNK inhibitor SP600125 (SP), and/or ERK inhibitor PD98059 (PD) and stimulated with LPS. Supernatant protein levels were measured by multiplex bead immunoassay. mRNA expression was determined by qPCR and protein expression by Western blot analysis. De novo IL-10 mRNA synthesis was quantified in cells treated with ethynyl-uridine and LPS followed by reverse transcription and qPCR. mRNA half-life was measured in LPS-treated cells that were then incubated with actinomycin D ± SB203580.

Results

Pre-treatment of WT BMDM with p38 inhibitor significantly reduced IL-10 production in the three groups, while ERK and JNK inhibitors had minimal effects. IL-10 production was significantly decreased in MKK3−/− BMDM compared with either WT or MKK6−/− cells. IL-10 mRNA expression was modestly reduced in MKK3−/− BMDM but was preserved in MKK6−/− cells compared with WT. De novo IL-10 mRNA synthesis was inhibited in MKK3−/− and p38 inhibitor pre-treated cells, but not MKK6−/− cells compared with WT. IL-10 mRNA half-life was markedly reduced in p38 inhibitor-treated WT cells while MKK-deficiency had minimal effect. DUSP1 mRNA levels were preserved in MKK-deficient cells but not in p38 inhibitor-treated WT cells. Tristetraprolin mRNA and protein levels were reduced in p38 inhibitor-treated WT cells compared with MKK6−/− cells.

Conclusion

Unlike p38-inhibition, the absence of MKK6 mostly preserves IL-10 and TTP protein expression in BMDM. MKK6-deficiency also spares DUSP1 and IL-1RA, which are key negative regulators of the inflammatory response. Together, these data suggest that MKK6 is a potential therapeutic target in RA.

Keywords:
p38 inhibitor; Rheumatoid arthritis; IL-10; MKK6; Tristetraprolin; Anti-inflammatory response