Modulation of p38 kinase by DUSP4 is important in regulating cardiovascular function under oxidative stress

Free Radic Biol Med. 2015 Dec;89:170-81. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2015.07.013. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Over-activation of p38 is implicated in many cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), including myocardial infarction, hypertrophy, heart failure, and ischemic heart disease. Numerous therapeutic interventions for CVDs have been directed toward the inhibition of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase activation that contributes to the detrimental effect after ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injuries. However, the efficacy of these treatments is far from ideal, as they lack specificity and are associated with high toxicity. Previously, we demonstrated that N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) pretreatment up-regulates DUSP4 expression in endothelial cells, regulating p38 and ERK1/2 activities, and thus providing a protective effect against oxidative stress. Here, endothelial cells under hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R) insult and isolated heart I/R injury were used to investigate the role of DUSP4 in the modulation of the p38 pathway. In rat endothelial cells, DUSP4 is time-dependently degraded by H/R (0.25 ± 0.07-fold change of control after 2h H/R). Its degradation is closely associated with hyperphosphorylation of p38 (2.1 ± 0.36-fold change) and cell apoptosis, as indicated by the increase in cells immunopositive for cleaved caspase-3 (12.59 ± 3.38%) or TUNEL labeling (29.46 ± 3.75%). The inhibition of p38 kinase activity with 20 µM SB203580 during H/R prevents H/R-induced apoptosis, assessed via TUNEL (12.99 ± 1.89%). Conversely, DUSP4 gene silencing in endothelial cells augments their sensitivity to H/R-induced apoptosis (45.81 ± 5.23%). This sensitivity is diminished via the inhibition of p38 activity (total apoptotic cells drop to 17.47 ± 1.45%). Interestingly, DUSP4 gene silencing contributes to the increase in superoxide generation from cells. Isolated Langendorff-perfused mouse hearts were subjected to global I/R injury. DUSP4(-/-) hearts had significantly larger infarct size than WT. The increase in I/R-induced infarct in DUSP4(-/-) mice significantly correlates with reduced functional recovery (assessed by RPP%, LVDP%, HR%, and dP/dtmax) as well as lower CF% and a higher initial LVEDP. From immunoblotting analysis, it is evident that p38 is significantly overactivated in DUSP4(-/-) mice after I/R injury. The activation of cleaved caspase-3 is seen in both WT and DUSP4(-/-) I/R hearts. Infusion of a p38 inhibitor prior to ischemia and during the reperfusion improves both WT and DUSP4(-/-) cardiac function. Therefore, the identification of p38 kinase modulation by DUSP4 provides a novel therapeutic target for oxidant-induced diseases, especially myocardial infarction.

Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; DUSP4; H/R; I/R; MAPK; Oxidative stress; p38.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta / cytology
  • Aorta / physiology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Heart / physiopathology*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myocardial Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Rats
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MKP2 protein, mouse
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases