• astrocytes;
  • cytokines;
  • MAP kinase;
  • microglia;
  • neuroinflammation;
  • nitric oxide


Thumbnail image of graphical abstract

Tumor progression locus 2 (Tpl2)/cancer Osaka thyroid kinase is a newer member of MAP3K family that is now known for its essential role in tumor necrosis factor-aplha (TNFα) expression in macrophages, but its pro-inflammatory signaling, if any, in glia is unknown. When cultures of murine microglia and astrocytes were exposed to lipopolysaccharide, there was a rapid activation (i.e., phosphorylation) of Tpl2 in parallel to the activation of down-stream effector MAPKs, that is, extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK), p38 MAPK and C-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Pre-incubation of the cultures with a Tpl2 inhibitor selectively suppressed the activation of the primary down-stream target, that is, ERK relative to p38 MAPK and JNK. That Tpl2 activation was functionally involved in glial inflammatory response was indicated by a reduced release of the cytokines, i.e. TNFα and the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase in the presence of the kinase inhibitor. Furthermore, over-expression of a wild-type Tpl2 construct in C-6 glia resulted in an enhanced transcriptional activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase, while transfection with a dominant negative form of Tpl-2 had the opposite effect. The findings assign an important pro-inflammatory signaling function for Tpl2 pathway in glial cells.

MAP kinase cascades including ERK, JNK, and p38 are involved in glial expression of inflammatory mediators. Recent studies identify TPL2, a newer member of MAP3K, as the major upstream activator of ERK in immune cells although essentially nothing is known about this kinase in glial cells. The studies presented define an important proinflammatory function of TPL2 pathway in these cells.