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Keywords:

  • mitogen-activated-protein kinase;
  • stress-activated protein kinase;
  • HOGI;
  • cellular stress;
  • cytokine

The identities of the upstream activators of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase homologues termed stress-activated-protein (SAP) kinase-I (also known as JNK or SAPK) and SAP kinase-2 (also known as p38, RK and CSBP) were investigated in rat PC12 cells and human KB cells after exposure to cellular stresses and cytokines. In PC12 cells, the same two upstream activators, SAP kinase kinase-I (SAPKK-1) and SAPKK-2 were activated after exposure to osmotic shock, ultraviolet irradiation or the protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin, and more weakly in response to sodium arsenite. SAPKK-1 was capable of activating both SAP kinase-1 and SAP kinase-2 and was similar, if not identical, to the previously described MAP kinase kinase homologue MKK4, as judged by immunological criteria and by its ability to be activated by MEK kinase in vitro. In contrast, SAPKK-2 activated SAP kinase-2, but not SAP kinase-1 in vitro. In KB cells, five distinct upstream activators of SAP kinase-1 and SAP kinase-2 were induced, namely SAPKK-1, SAPKK-2, SAPKK-3, SAPKK-4 and SAPKK-5, whose appearance depended on the nature of the stimulus. SAPKK-3, which was strongly induced by every stimulus tested (osmotic shock, ultraviolet irradiation, anisomycin or IL-1), accounted for about 95% of the SAP kinase-2 activator activity in these cells, did not activate SAP kinase-1 and eluted from Mono S at a lower salt concentration than SAPKK-2. SAPKK-4 and SAPKK-5 were also eluted from Mono S at higher NaCl concentrations than SAPKK-3 and these enzymes activated SAP kinase-1 but not SAP kinase-2. SAPKK-4 was the only SAP kinase-1 activator induced by interleukin-1 or ultraviolet irradiation, while two SAP kinase-1 activators, SAPKK-1 and SAPKK-5, were induced by osmotic shock or anisomycin. SAPKK-2, SAPKK-3, SAPKK-4 and SAPKK-5 were not activated by MEK kinase in vitro, were separable from the major activator(s) of p42 MAP kinase, and were not recognized by anti-MKK4 antibodies. At least two of these enzymes are likely to be novel MAP kinase kinase homologues. Our results demonstrate unexpected complexity in the upstream regulation of stress and cytokine-stimulated kinase cascades and indicate that the selection of the appropriate SAPKK varies with both the stimulus and the cell type.