Colorectal cancer is frequently associated with chronic inflammation, with the intestinal epithelial barrier playing an important protective role against the infections and injuries that cause colitis. The p38α pathway regulates inflammatory responses but can also suppress tumor initiation in epithelial cells. We have found that p38α signaling has a dual function in colorectal tumorigenesis. On one side, p38α protects intestinal epithelial cells against colitis-associated colon cancer by regulating intestinal epithelial barrier function. Accordingly, p38α downregulation results in enhanced colitis-induced epithelial damage and inflammation, which potentiates colon tumor formation. Surprisingly, inhibition of p38α in transformed colon epithelial cells reduces tumor burden. Thus, p38α suppresses inflammation-associated epithelial damage and tumorigenesis but contributes to the proliferation and survival of tumor cells.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.