p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is known to be activated after exposure to endotoxin, osmotic and environmental stress, and, most recently, during ischemia/reperfusion. We investigated whether ischemic preconditioning also causes phosphorylation of the activation sites on p38 MAPK. Three groups of isolated rabbit hearts were studied. Control hearts experienced 30 min of ischemia only. The second group was preconditioned with 5 min of global ischemia and 10 min of reperfusion. Group 3 was also ischemically preconditioned, but in the presence of 100 microM 8-(p-sulfophenyl)theophylline (SPT). Transmural left ventricular biopsies were taken before and during the long ischemic period. Western blot analysis with either p38 MAPK or phospho-specific p38 MAPK (Tyr-182) antibodies showed a decreased phosphorylation during ischemia in non-preconditioned hearts, but phosphorylation was enhanced several fold after 10 and 20 min of ischemia in preconditioned hearts. Furthermore, when protection from ischemic preconditioning was blocked by SPT, increased phosphorylation of p38 MAPK during ischemia was not present. Therefore the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK at tyrosine 182, which is required for the kinase's activation, occurred during ischemia only when protection from preconditioning was evident. In a second study, changes in osmotic fragility were measured during simulated ischemia in rabbit cardiomyocytes. Reduced fragility in ischemically preconditioned myocytes could be completely abolished by the specific p38 MAPK inhibitor SB-203580. In contrast, anisomycin, an activator of p38 MAPK and JUN kinase pathways, was found to be as protective as ischemic preconditioning. We conclude that p38 MAPK phosphorylation correlates with preconditioning's protection, and that its activation may be an important step in the signal transduction cascade of ischemic preconditioning.
Copyright 1997 Academic Press Limited.