Decreased p38 MAPK activity in end-stage failing human myocardium: p38 MAPK α is the predominant isoform expressed in human heart

Leslie E. Lemke, Laura J. Bloem, Rebecca Fouts, Michail Esterman, George Sandusky, Chris J. Vlahos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Short duration exposure to cellular stresses have been shown to activate p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in cultured rat ventricular cardiomyocytes and isolated perfused hearts; however, effects of chronic stress on p38 MAPK are not well understood. This study determined whether alterations in the p38 MAPK pathway occurred prior to end-stage human heart failure. The p38 MAPK α isoform was detectable in human cardiac tissue. However, carefully controlled analysis of protein and message in this study demonstrated an absence of the p38 MAPK β-isoform. Low levels of message for the non-SB203580 sensitive p38 MAPK γ and δ isoforms were also detected in both normal and failing human myocardium. Ischemic and idiopathic end-stage failing human hearts were compared to non-failing hearts for both p38 α MAPK protein level and total p38 MAPK activity. Western blotting techniques demonstrated no significant changes in total p38 α MAPK content. However, approximately 75% decreases in active/phosphorylated p38 MAPK (P<0.005) were observed in both ischemic and idiopathic failing hearts compared to non-failing hearts. In-gel kinase assays confirmed that activated p38 MAPK, detected by Western blotting, phosphorylated its potential downstream targets. When compared to non-failing hearts, approximately 46% decreases in p38 MAPK phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase-activated protein kinase-2 (MAPKAPK-2) were observed in ischemic and idiopathic failing hearts (P=0.03 and P=0.04 respectively). Active p38 MAPK was localized to sarcomeric structures in the cytosol of myocytes by confocal immunofluoresence microscopy. The correlation between decreased MAPKAPK-2 phosphorylation and loss of active p38 MAPK in failing human myocytes suggests that decreases in the activation of p38 MAPK α, the predominant cardiac isoform, occur prior to end-stage heart failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1527-1540
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hypertrophy
  • Mitogen activated protein kinase
  • SB203580
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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