Three well-characterized mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) subfamilies are expressed in rodent and rabbit hearts, and are activated by pathophysiological stimuli. We have determined and compared the expression and activation of these MAPKs in donor and failing human hearts. The amount and activation of MAPKs was assessed in samples from the left ventricles of 4 unused donor hearts and 12 explanted hearts from patients with heart failure secondary to ischaemic heart disease. Total MAPKs or dually phosphorylated (activated) MAPKs were detected by Western blotting and MAPK activities were measured by in gel kinase assays. As in rat heart, c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) were detected in human hearts as bands corresponding to 46 and 54 kDa; p38-MAPK(s) was detected as a band corresponding to approximately 40 kDa, and extracellularly regulated kinases, ERK1 and ERK2, were detected as 44- and 42-kDa bands respectively. The total amounts of 54 kDa JNK, p38-MAPK and ERK2 were similar in all samples, although 46-kDa JNK was reduced in the failing hearts. However, the mean activities of JNKs and p38-MAPK(s) were significantly higher in failing heart samples than in those from donor hearts (P<0.05). There was no significant difference in phosphorylated (activated) ERKs between the two groups. In conclusion, JNKs, p38-MAPK(s) and ERKs are expressed in the human heart and the activities of JNKs and p38-MAPK(s) were increased in heart failure secondary to ischaemic heart disease. These data indicate that JNKs and p38-MAPKs may be important in human cardiac pathology.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.