The p38 MAPK kinase pathway is activated in response to a wide range of cellular stress stimuli and cytokines. Our understanding of the important functions of p38 MAPK in the process of differentiation and cell death has grown considerably in the recent years and is now relatively established. Here we discuss the role of p38 MAPK in the mediation of cell cycle checkpoints and cell survival, processes that have received less attention. We describe how p38 MAPK regulates both the G2/M as well as a G1/S cell cycle checkpoint in response to cellular stress such as DNA damage. While p38 MAPK has classically been associated with the induction of apoptosis, we discuss that p38 MAPK can also mediate cell survival in specific situations, such as in response to DNA damage. It is important to recognize these less appreciated functions of p38 MAPK when considering the potential use of pharmacological inhibitors of p38 MAPK in therapeutic treatments for disease.
Keywords: Cell Cycle Checkpoint; Survival; p38 MAPK.