Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Roger J. Davis, Ph.D.


p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases, JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases, MAP Kinase Signaling System, Cell Differentiation, Adipocytes


The c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) group and the p38 group of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) are stress-activated protein kinases that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, development, and apoptosis. These protein kinases are involved in a signal transduction cascade that includes a MAP kinase (MAPK), a MAP kinase kinase (MAP2K), and a MAP kinase kinase kinase (MAP3K). MAPK are phosphorylated and activated by the MAP2K, which are phosphorylated and activated by various MAP3K.

The work presented in this dissertation focuses on understanding the regulation and function of the JNK and p38 MAPK pathways. Two different strategies were utilized. First, I used molecular and biochemical techniques to examine how MAP2K and MAP3K mediate signaling specificity and to define their role in the MAPK pathway. Second, I used gene targeted disruption studies to determine the in vivo role ofMAP2K and MAP3K in MAPK activation. I specifically used these approaches to examine: (1) docking interactions between p38 MAPK and MAP2K [MKK3 and MKK6 (Chapter II)]; (2) the differential activation of p38 MAPK by MAP2K [MKK3, MKK4, and MKK6 (Chapter III)]; and (3) the selective involvement of the mixed lineage kinase (MLK) group of MAP3K in JNK and p38 MAPK activation (Chapter IV and Appendix). In addition, I analyzed the role of the MKK3 and MKK6 MAP2K in cell proliferation and the role of the MLK MAP3K in adipocyte differentiation (Chapter III and Chapter IV). Together, these data provide insight into the regulation and function of the stress-activated MAPK signal transduction pathways.


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