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Mitochondrial ROS Initiate Phosphorylation Of P38 MAP Kinase During Hypoxia In Cardiomyocytes

Andre Kulisz, Ningfang Chen, Navdeep S. Chandel, Zuohui Shao, Paul T. Schumacker

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The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is phosphorylated in response to oxidative stress. Mitochondria in cardiomyocytes increase their generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during hypoxia (1–5% O2). These ROS participate in signal transduction pathways involved in adaptive responses, including ischemic preconditioning and gene transcription. The present study therefore tested the hypothesis that hypoxia induces p38 MAPK phosphorylation by augmenting mitochondrial ROS generation. In cardiomyocytes, phosphorylation of p38 was observed in a Po 2-dependent manner during hypoxia. This response was inhibited by rotenone, thenoyltrifluoroacetone, and myxothiazol, inhibitors of mitochondrial complexes I, II, and III, respectively. A similar inhibition was observed in the cells pretreated with anion channel inhibitor DIDS, which may block ROS release from mitochondria. During normoxia, increases in mitochondrial ROS elicited by azide (1–2 mM) or by the mitochondrial inhibitor antimycin A caused increased phosphorylation of p38. Brief treatment with exogenous H2O2 during normoxia also induced phosphorylation of p38 as hypoxia, but this effect was not abolished by myxothiazol or DIDS. The antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine abolished the p38 response to hypoxia, presumably by scavenging H2O2, but the mitogen extracellular receptor kinase inhibitor PD-98059 did not inhibit p38 phosphorylation during hypoxia. Thus physiological hypoxia leads to p38 phosphorylation through a mechanism that requires electron flux in the proximal region of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, which suggests that either H2O2 or superoxide participates in activating that process.