Background: All three major members of the MAPK family (i.e., p38 MAPK, p42/p44 MAPK, and c-Jun N terminal kinase (JNK)) have been shown to control cellular responses to inflammation in vitro. Therefore these kinases have been designated suitable targets for anti-inflammatory therapy. However, the extent to which these kinases are actually activated during inflammation in humans in vivo has not been investigated. We employed experimental human endotoxemia, a model of systemic inflammation, to address this question.
Materials and methods: Male volunteers were intravenously infused with 4 ng/kg bw lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Directly before LPS infusion and up to 24 h thereafter, activation of p38 MAPK, p42/p44 MAPK and JNK was assessed in peripheral blood, using Western blot and in vitro kinase assays.
Results: We observed that LPS induced a strong but transient phosphorylation and activation of p38 MAPK and p42/p44 MAPK, maximal activity being reached after 1 hr of LPS infusion. Strikingly, no JNK phosphorylation or activation was detected under these circumstances.
Conclusions: These results suggest that both inhibitors of p38 MAPK and p42/p44 MAPK but not JNK are potentially useful for anti-inflammatory therapy.