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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

p38 MAP kinase mediates bax translocation in nitric oxide-induced apoptosis in neurons.

Nitric oxide is a chemical messenger implicated in neuronal damage associated with ischemia, neurodegenerative disease, and excitotoxicity. Excitotoxic injury leads to increased NO formation, as well as stimulation of the p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase in neurons. In the present study, we determined if NO-induced cell death in neurons was dependent on p38 MAP kinase activity. Sodium nitroprusside (SNP), an NO donor, elevated caspase activity and induced death in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells and primary cultures of cortical neurons. Concomitant treatment with SB203580, a p38 MAP kinase inhibitor, diminished caspase induction and protected SH-SY5Y cells and primary cultures of cortical neurons from NO-induced cell death, whereas the caspase inhibitor zVAD-fmk did not provide significant protection. A role for p38 MAP kinase was further substantiated by the observation that SB203580 blocked translocation of the cell death activator, Bax, from the cytosol to the mitochondria after treatment with SNP. Moreover, expressing a constitutively active form of MKK3, a direct activator of p38 MAP kinase promoted Bax translocation and cell death in the absence of SNP. Bax-deficient cortical neurons were resistant to SNP, further demonstrating the necessity of Bax in this mode of cell death. These results demonstrate that p38 MAP kinase activity plays a critical role in NO-mediated cell death in neurons by stimulating Bax translocation to the mitochondria, thereby activating the cell death pathway.[1]


  1. p38 MAP kinase mediates bax translocation in nitric oxide-induced apoptosis in neurons. Ghatan, S., Larner, S., Kinoshita, Y., Hetman, M., Patel, L., Xia, Z., Youle, R.J., Morrison, R.S. J. Cell Biol. (2000) [Pubmed]
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