Keratinocytes express cytokines and nerve growth factor in response to neuropeptide activation of the ERK1/2 and JNK MAPK transcription pathways

Regul Pept. 2013 Sep 10;186:92-103. doi: 10.1016/j.regpep.2013.08.001. Epub 2013 Aug 17.


Sensory neurons innervating the skin can release neuropeptides that are believed to modulate cellular proliferation, wound healing, pigmentation, and keratinocyte innate immune responses. While the ability of neuropeptides to stimulate keratinocyte production of inflammatory mediators has been demonstrated, there is no information concerning the mechanisms by which neuropeptide activation of keratinocyte cell surface receptors ultimately leads to the up-regulation of mediator production. In this study we used a keratinocyte cell line to identify the presence of substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptors on keratinocytes and examined the effects of SP and CGRP stimulation on keratinocyte neuropeptide signaling, cell proliferation, and interleukin-1β (IL-1β), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), and nerve growth factor (NGF) expression. Neuropeptide stimulation caused an up-regulation of neuropeptide receptor expression in keratinocytes and a dramatic increase in keratinocyte secretion of SP and CGRP, suggesting possible autocrine or paracrine stimulatory effects and amplification of neuropeptide signaling. Both SP and CGRP concentration-dependently stimulated cellular proliferation and the expression and secretion of inflammatory cytokines and NGF in keratinocytes. SP also activated all 3 families of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor κB (NFκB) in keratinocytes, while CGRP only activated p38 and extracellular signal related kinase1/2 (ERK1/2) MAPKs. Neuropeptide stimulated inflammatory mediatory production in keratinocytes was reversed by ERK1/2 and JNK inhibitors. The current study is the first to observe; 1) that CGRP stimulates keratinocyte expression of CGRP and its receptor complex, 2) that SP and CGRP stimulate IL-6 and TNF-α secretion in keratinocytes, 3) that SP activated all three MAPK families and the NFκB transcriptional signaling pathway in keratinocytes, and 4) that SP and CGRP stimulated inflammatory mediator production in keratinocytes is dependent on ERK1/2 and JNK activation. These studies provide evidence suggesting that disruption of ERK1/2 and JNK signaling may potentially be an effective therapy for inflammatory skin diseases and pain syndromes mediated by exaggerated sensory neuron-keratinocyte signaling.

Keywords: Calcitonin gene-related peptide; Cytokines; Keratinocyte; Mitogen activated protein kinases; Nerve growth factor; Substance P.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / pharmacology
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Neurokinin-1 Receptor Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Receptor Activity-Modifying Protein 1 / genetics
  • Receptor Activity-Modifying Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Substance P / pharmacology
  • Substance P / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • 1-(N-(2-methoxybenzyl)acetylamino)-3-(1H-indol-3-yl)-2-(N-(2-(4-(piperidin-1-yl)piperidin-1-yl)acetyl)amino)propane
  • Cytokines
  • Indoles
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neurokinin-1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Piperidines
  • Ramp1 protein, rat
  • Receptor Activity-Modifying Protein 1
  • Receptors, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Substance P
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide