A regulatory role for p38δ MAPK in keratinocyte differentiation: Evidence for p38δ-ERK1/2 complex formation

Tatiana Efimova, Ann Marie Broome, Richard L. Eckert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


p38 MAPK isoforms are important in the regulation of a variety of cellular processes. Among the four described p38 isoforms, p38α, β, and δ are expressed in keratinocytes (Dashti, S. R., Efimova, T., and Eckert, R. L. (2001) J. Biol. Chem. 276, 8059-8063). However, very little is known about how individual p38 isoforms regulate keratinocyte function. In the present study, we use okadaic acid (OA) as a tool to study the role of p38 MAPKs as regulators of keratinocyte differentiation. We demonstrate that OA activates p38δ but not other p38 isoforms. p38δ activation is increased as early as 0.5 h after OA addition, and activity is maximal at 8 and 24 h. ERK1 and ERK2 activity are reduced on an identical time course. We show that p38δ forms a complex with ERK1/2, and overexpression of p38δ inhibits ERK1/2 activity without reducing ERK1/2 level. Thus, p38δ may directly suppress ERK1/2 activity. Additional studies show that p38δ is expressed in the epidermis, suggesting a role for p38δ in regulating differentiation. To evaluate its function, we show that increased p38δ activity is associated with increased levels of AP1 and CAATT enhancer binding protein factors, increased binding of these factors to the involucrin (hINV) promoter, and increased expression. Moreover, these responses are maintained in the presence of SB203580, an agent that inhibits p38α and β, further suggesting a central role for the p38δ isoform. Dominant-negative p38 also inhibits these responses. These unique observations suggest that p38δ is the major p38 isoform driving suprabasal hINV gene expression and that p38δ directly regulates ERK1/2 activity via formation of a p38δ-ERK1/2 complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34277-34285
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 5 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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