Apoptosis signal regulating kinase-1 connects reactive oxygen species to p38 MAPK-induced mitochondrial apoptosis in UVB-irradiated human keratinocytes

Free Radic Biol Med. 2006 Nov 1;41(9):1361-71. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2006.07.007. Epub 2006 Jul 15.


The p38 MAPK pathway controls critical premitochondrial events culminating in apoptosis of UVB-irradiated human keratinocytes, but the upstream mediators of this stress signal are not completely defined. This study shows that in human keratinocytes exposed to UVB the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) acts as a mediator of apoptosis signal regulating kinase-1 (Ask-1), a redox-sensitive mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase (MAP3K) regulating p38 MAPK and JNK cascades. The NADPH oxidase antagonist diphenylene iodonium chloride and the EGFR inhibitor AG1487 prevent UVB-mediated ROS generation, the activation of the Ask-1-p38 MAPK stress response pathway, and apoptosis, evidencing the link existing between the early plasma membrane-generated ROS and the activation of a lethal cascade initiated by Ask-1. Consistent with this, Ask-1 overexpression considerably sensitizes keratinocytes to UVB-induced mitochondrial apoptosis. Although the JNK pathway is also stimulated after UVB, the killing effect of Ask-1 overexpression is reverted by p38 MAPK inhibition, suggesting that Ask-1 exerts its lethal effects mainly through the p38 MAPK pathway. Moreover, p38alpha(-/-) murine embryonic fibroblasts are protected from UVB-induced apoptosis even if JNK activation is fully preserved. These results argue for an important role of the UVB-generated ROS as mediators of the Ask-1-p38 MAPK pathway that, by culminating in apoptosis, restrains the propagation of potentially mutagenic keratinocytes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Keratinocytes / radiation effects*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase 5 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase 5