Differential activation of neuronal ERK, JNK/SAPK and p38 in Alzheimer disease: The 'two hit' hypothesis

Xiongwei Zhu, Rudolph J. Castellani, Atsushi Takeda, Akihiko Nunomura, Craig S. Atwood, George Perry, Mark A. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Scopus citations


There are multiple lines of evidence showing that oxidative stress and aberrant mitogenic signaling play an important role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. However, the chronological relationship between these and other events associated with disease pathogenesis is not known. Given the important role that mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways play in both mitogenic signaling (ERK) and cellular stress signaling (JNK/SAPK and p38), we investigated the chronological and spatial relationship between activated ERK, JNK/SAPK and p38 during disease progression. While all three kinases are activated in the same susceptible neurons in mild and severe cases (Braak stages III-VI), in non-demented cases with limited pathology (Braak stages I and II), both ERK and JNK/SAPK are activated but p38 is not. However, in non-demented cases lacking any sign of pathology (Braak stage 0), either ERK alone or JNK/SAPK alone can be activated. Taken together, these findings indicate that MAPK pathways are differentially activated during the course of Alzheimer disease and, by inference, suggest that both oxidative stress and abnormalities in mitotic signaling can independently serve to initiate, but both are necessary to propagate, disease pathogenesis. Therefore, we propose that both 'hits', oxidative stress and mitotic alterations, are necessary for the progression of Alzheimer disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2558
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Alzheimer disease
  • MAPK mitogen
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Developmental Biology


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