Differential activation of p38MAPK isoforms by MKK6 and MKK3

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Molecular Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Biochemistry | Cell Biology | Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Molecular Biology


All four members of the mammalian p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family (p38alpha, p38beta, p38gamma and p38delta) are activated by dual phosphorylation in the TGY motif in the activation loop. This phosphorylation is mediated by three kinases, MKK3, MKK6 and MKK4, at least in vitro. The role of these MKK in the activation of p38alpha has been demonstrated in studies using fibroblasts that lack MKK3 and/or MKK6. Nonetheless, the physiological upstream activators of the other p38MAPK isoforms have not yet been reported using MKK knockout cells. In this study, we examined p38beta, gamma and delta activation by MKK3 and MKK6, in cells lacking MKK3, MKK6 or both. We show that MKK3 and MKK6 are both essential for the activation of p38gamma and p38beta induced by environmental stress, whereas MKK6 is the major p38gamma activator in response to TNFalpha. In contrast, p38delta activation by ultraviolet radiation, hyperosmotic shock, anisomycin or by TNFalpha is mediated by MKK3. Moreover, in response to osmotic stress, MKK3 and MKK6 are crucial in regulating the phosphorylation of the p38gamma substrate hDlg and its activity as scaffold protein. These data indicate that activation of distinct p38MAPK isoforms is regulated by the selective and synchronized action of two kinases, MKK3 and MKK6, in response to cell stress.

DOI of Published Version



Cell Signal. 2010 Apr;22(4):660-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2009.11.020. Epub 2009 Dec 11. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Cellular signalling

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID