The Apoptotic Activity of c-Jun NH2-Terminal Kinase Signal Transduction: A Dissertation

Publication Date

September 2002

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Program in Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology


Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases; Signal Transduction; Apoptosis; Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-jun; Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


Stress-induced JNK activity has been implicated in apoptosis. Gene disruption studies have established that JNK signaling is required for some forms of apoptosis. However, it was not clear whether and how JNK was able to deliver an apoptotic signal, because JNK and its regulated-downstream transcriptional factors control a variety of gene activities and multiple biological functions. I have studied this question by using constitutively activated JNK that is independent of upstream signaling. The results indicate that activated JNK is sufficient to deliver an apoptotic signal that causes cytochrome c release from mitochondria. Significantly, this apoptotic signal requires pro-apoptotic Bc12 proteins of Bax and Bak to mediate the downstream apoptotic program. This part of work established the apoptotic activity of JNK signal transduction and the key downstream components of JNK-stimulated apoptotic signal.

Two pathways are known to mediate apoptosis in response to apoptotic stimulations: death receptor pathway and mitochondrial pathway. It has been established that JNK is required for the apoptosis mediated by mitochondria in response to ultraviolet irradiation and some genetic stress. However, the mechanisms are not fully understood. It is well known that Bax and Bak are indispensable downstream components leading to apoptotic mitochondrial changes and that other Bc12 family members can regulate the relative apoptotic activity of Bax and Bak. In conjunction with the first part of the research, I have investigated the hypothesis that JNK-mediated regulation of BH3-only Bc12 members contributes to its apoptotic activity. These results indicate that JNK-mediated phosphorylation of Bim and Bmf promotes the release of these proapoptotic BH3-only proteins from their sequestration and these factors become free to initiate apoptosis. This part of work established one mechanism of activated JNK-stimulated apoptosis. This mechanism may contribute to the phenomenon that Jnk1-/-Jnk2-/- fibroblasts are resistant to ultraviolet irradiation-induced apoptosis.


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