Antiinflammatory Functions of p38 in Mouse Models of Rheumatoid Arthritis Advantages of Targeting Upstream Kinases MKK-3 or MKK-6

University of California at San Diego, La Jolla CA 92093-0656, USA.
Arthritis & Rheumatology (Impact Factor: 7.76). 09/2012; 64(9):2887-95. DOI: 10.1002/art.34489
Source: PubMed


Inhibitors of p38 demonstrate limited benefit in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), perhaps due to the antiinflammatory functions of p38α. This study was performed to determine if selective deletion of p38α in macrophages affects the severity of arthritis and whether blocking upstream kinases in the p38 pathway, such as MKK-3 or MKK-6, avoids some of the limitations of p38 blockade.
Wild-type (WT) mice and mice with selective deletion of p38α in macrophages (p38α(ΔLysM) ) were injected with K/BxN sera. Antigen-induced arthritis was also induced in p38α(ΔLysM) mice. Mouse joint extracts were evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and Western blot analysis. Bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs) were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and were evaluated by qPCR and Western blotting. Bone marrow chimeras were generated using MKK-3(-/-) and MKK-6(-/-) mice, and K/BxN serum was administered to induce arthritis.
Compared to WT mice, p38α(ΔLysM) mice had increased disease severity and delayed resolution of arthritis, which correlated with higher synovial inflammatory mediator expression and ERK phosphorylation. In contrast to WT BMMs cultured in the presence of a p38α/β inhibitor, LPS-stimulated MKK-6- and MKK-3-deficient BMMs had suppressed LPS-mediated interleukin-6 (IL-6) expression but had normal IL-10 production, dual-specificity phosphatase 1 expression, and MAPK phosphorylation. WT chimeric mice with MKK-6- and MKK-3-deficient bone marrow had markedly decreased passive K/BxN arthritis severity.
Inhibiting p38α in a disease that is dominated by macrophage cytokines, such as RA, could paradoxically suppress antiinflammatory functions and interfere with clinical efficacy. Targeting an upstream kinase that regulates p38 could be more effective by suppressing proinflammatory cytokines while preventing decreased IL-10 expression and increased MAPK activation.

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Available from: Deepa Hammaker, Feb 24, 2015
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    • "In addition, MKK3, but not MKK6, is required for optimal p38 activation in synovitis, whereas MKK6-deficiency is associated with lower IL-6, IL-17 and anti-collagen antibody production [14,15]. In bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM), p38 inhibition blocks IL-10 and DUSP1 expression while MKK-deficiency partially spared these anti-inflammatory responses [12]. It is not clear why the absence of p38α compared with MKK3 or MKK6 yields such divergent anti-inflammatory effects. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Conventional p38α inhibitors have limited efficacy in rheumatoid arthritis, possibly because p38 blockade suppresses the counter-regulatory mechanisms that limit inflammation. In contrast, targeting the upstream MAP kinase kinases, MKK3 and MKK6, partially maintains p38-mediated anti-inflammatory responses in bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM). In this study, we explored the mechanisms that preserve anti-inflammatory gene expression by evaluating differential regulation of IL-10 and p38-dependent anti-inflammatory genes in MKK3−/−, MKK6−/−, and p38 inhibitor-treated wildtype cells. Methods BMDM from wild type (WT), MKK3−/−, and MKK6−/− mice were pre-treated with p38 inhibitor SB203580 (SB), JNK inhibitor SP600125 (SP), and/or ERK inhibitor PD98059 (PD) and stimulated with LPS. Supernatant protein levels were measured by multiplex bead immunoassay. mRNA expression was determined by qPCR and protein expression by Western blot analysis. De novo IL-10 mRNA synthesis was quantified in cells treated with ethynyl-uridine and LPS followed by reverse transcription and qPCR. mRNA half-life was measured in LPS-treated cells that were then incubated with actinomycin D ± SB203580. Results Pre-treatment of WT BMDM with p38 inhibitor significantly reduced IL-10 production in the three groups, while ERK and JNK inhibitors had minimal effects. IL-10 production was significantly decreased in MKK3−/− BMDM compared with either WT or MKK6−/− cells. IL-10 mRNA expression was modestly reduced in MKK3−/− BMDM but was preserved in MKK6−/− cells compared with WT. De novo IL-10 mRNA synthesis was inhibited in MKK3−/− and p38 inhibitor pre-treated cells, but not MKK6−/− cells compared with WT. IL-10 mRNA half-life was markedly reduced in p38 inhibitor-treated WT cells while MKK-deficiency had minimal effect. DUSP1 mRNA levels were preserved in MKK-deficient cells but not in p38 inhibitor-treated WT cells. Tristetraprolin mRNA and protein levels were reduced in p38 inhibitor-treated WT cells compared with MKK6−/− cells. Conclusion Unlike p38-inhibition, the absence of MKK6 mostly preserves IL-10 and TTP protein expression in BMDM. MKK6-deficiency also spares DUSP1 and IL-1RA, which are key negative regulators of the inflammatory response. Together, these data suggest that MKK6 is a potential therapeutic target in RA.
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    • "There are three major MAPK dependent pathways: p38 MAPK, extracellular-regulated protein kinase (ERK) 1/2, and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK). The phosphorylated MAPKs transduce their signals downstream and promote activation and translocation of transcription factors that subsequently regulate the expression of different cytokine genes and the biological functions of cells [16]–[18]. "
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