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c-Jun N-terminal kinase binding domain-dependent phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 4 and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 7 and balancing cross-talk between c-Jun N-terminal kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathways in cortical neurons
The c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activated by stress-signals and involved in many different diseases. Previous results proved the powerful effect of the cell permeable peptide inhibitor d-JNKI1 (d-retro-inverso form of c-Jun N-terminal kinase-inhibitor) against neuronal death in CNS diseases, but the precise features of this neuroprotection remain unclear. We here performed cell-free and in vitro experiments for a deeper characterization of d-JNKI1 features in physiological conditions. This peptide works by preventing JNK interaction with its c-Jun N-terminal kinase-binding domain (JBD) dependent targets. We here focused on the two JNK upstream MAPKKs, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 4 (MKK4) and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 7 (MKK7), because they contain a JBD homology domain. We proved that d-JNKI1 prevents MKK4 and MKK7 activity in cell-free and in vitro experiments: these MAPKK could be considered not only activators but also substrates of JNK. This means that d-JNKI1 can interrupt downstream but also upstream events along the JNK cascade, highlighting a new remarkable feature of this peptide. We also showed the lack of any direct effect of the peptide on p38, MEK1, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in cell free, while in rat primary cortical neurons JNK inhibition activates the MEK1-ERK-Ets1/c-Fos cascade. JNK inhibition induces a compensatory effect and leads to ERK activation via MEK1, resulting in an activation of the survival pathway-(MEK1/ERK) as a consequence of the death pathway-(JNK) inhibition. This study should hold as an important step to clarify the strong neuroprotective effect of d-JNKI1.
JNK, MKK4, MKK7, ERK, MEK1, d-JNKI1
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