Context-specific inhibition of JNKs: overcoming the dilemma of protection and damage

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2005 Sep;26(9):455-61. doi: 10.1016/


The c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), which are essential regulators of physiological and pathological processes, are involved in several diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis, stroke, and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Inhibition of JNKs suppresses pathological features of these diseases but the many physiological functions of these enzymes argue against the use of sustained, systemic, nonspecific inhibition in the treatment of these diseases. For example, deletion of the gene that encodes JNK1 prevents insulin resistance but disrupts neuronal cytoarchitecture and initiates the pathology of Alzheimer's disease. Thus, it is not sufficient to inhibit selectively either JNKs or individual isoforms of JNK. Instead, the aim is to inhibit the damaging actions of JNK. This can be achieved using peptides that selectively block molecular domains of individual JNK signaling complexes (exclusively) that form under pathological conditions. To date, peptide inhibitors of JNK have been successful in protecting against ischemia-induced brain damage and insulin resistance following obesity. In this review, we discuss novel pharmacological strategies to inhibit JNK and the limitations of these strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbazoles / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Carbazoles
  • Indoles
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • 3,9-bis((ethylthio)methyl)-K-252a
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases