Src mediates cytokine-stimulated gene expression in airway myocytes through ERK MAPK
© Singer et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
Received: 5 January 2011
Accepted: 20 May 2011
Published: 20 May 2011
The p38 and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) participate in cytokine-stimulated inflammatory gene expression in airway smooth muscle cells. The following study was undertaken to determine whether Src tyrosine kinases are signaling intermediaries upstream of cytokine-stimulated MAPK activation and gene expression. Treating human airway myocytes with interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α and interferon (IFN) γ caused a rapid 1.8-fold increase in Src family tyrosine kinase activity within 1 minute that remained 2.3 to 2.7 fold above basal conditions for 15 minutes. This activity was blocked by addition of 30 μM PP1, a pyrimidine inhibitor specific for Src family tyrosine kinases, in immune-complex assays to confirm that this stimulus activates Src tyrosine kinase. Addition of PP1 also blocked cytokine-stimulated expression of IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-8, while decreasing phosphorylation of ERK, but not p38 MAPK. Since this inflammatory stimulus may activate additional inflammatory signaling pathways downstream of Src, we tested the effects of PP1 on phosphorylation of signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT). PP1 had no effect on cytokine-stimulated STAT 1 or STAT 3 phosphorylation. These results demonstrate that Src tyrosine kinases participate in the regulation of IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-8 expression and that these effects of Src are mediated through activation of ERK MAPK and not p38 MAPK or STAT1/STAT3 phosphorylation.
Our laboratory has examined signaling pathways regulating secretion of inflammatory mediators by human airway smooth muscle cells. The synthesis and secretion of Th1/Th2 cytokines, along with CC and C-X-C chemokines, chemotactic proteins, peptide growth factors and their receptors can be induced in these myocytes by exposure to, among others, interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α, interferon (IFN) γ, or transforming growth factor β [1, 2] and contributes to inflammatory airway disease. In previous studies, we used a complementary DNA expression array to analyze expression of inflammatory mediators following treatment with a pro-inflammatory stimulus consisting of IL-1β, TNFα and IFNγ and established that this stimulus induces expression of multiple inflammatory mediators including IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-8 . Pharmacological inhibitors of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation were used to further demonstrate that both p38 and ERK MAPK are upstream mediators of IL-6 and IL-8 expression, while ERK MAPK alone was involved in mediating IL-1β expression.
Src tyrosine kinases are one of the signaling intermediaries linking multiple types of receptors to MAPK activation in smooth muscle. In colonic myocytes, the G-protein coupled M2 muscarinic receptor is coupled to ERK MAPK through Src activation  and expression of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, and cyclooxygenase (COX-2) mRNA is reduced by inhibition of Src with the pyrimidine inhibitor PP1 . In vascular smooth muscle cells, angiotensin II stimulates Src-dependent p38 MAPK activation  and CD40 ligation initiates Src activation of p38 and ERK MAPK, resulting in the induction of IL-8 and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 . In airway myocytes, the PDGF receptor signals to ERK MAPK through Src activation via a pertussis-toxin sensitive mechanism that suggests the involvement of Gi-protein subunits  and sphingosine-1-phosphate stimulation of a Gi-coupled receptor also stimulates ERK MAPK through Src . In addition to acting as an upstream mediator of MAPK, Src may also activate other signaling pathways that could affect inflammatory gene expression, such as the Janus kinase-signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK-STAT). This is supported by evidence that inhibition of Src in PDGF-stimulated airway myocytes with PP2 blocks both ERK MAPK and JAK2 activation, resulting in decreased phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT3  that requires an interaction with the small GTPase Rac1 .
Clearly, the functions of Src tyrosine kinases in smooth muscle cells are varied and likely involve interactions with multiple signaling pathways. In the airway, Src mediates serotonin-evoked peak Ca2+ responses by affecting phosphoinositide levels to alter cell contraction . Src also mediates PDGF and thrombin-induced proliferative responses, possibly through stimulation of cyclin D1 expression [10, 13]. While previous studies have established that both ERK and p38 MAPK are involved in regulating expression of many inflammatory genes in airway myocytes [3, 16, 17], this work demonstrates that Src tyrosine kinases also play a role in regulating inflammatory gene expression by signaling upstream of ERK but not p38 MAPK. This is supported by studies of inflammatory gene expression in other cell types. In pulmonary epithelial cells, both ERK and p38 MAPK contribute to silica-induced IL-8 release but only ERK MAPK activation is dependent on Src . CD40 stimulation of IL-8 and MCP-1 production in vascular myocytes is also dependent on ERK and p38 MAPK activation but the inhibitor PP2 was found to inhibit only ERK MAPK . In this same study, PP2 also decreased activation of IκB kinase, indicating that Src stimulates NF-κB signaling to affect chemokine production and suggesting that NF-κB activation could link cytokine stimulation to MAPK activation. We have previously shown that IL-1β and TNFα but not IFNγ activates NF-κB in airway myocytes and inhibition of NF-κB activity reduces expression of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8 and COX-2 in a manner independent of p38 MAPK [5, 16].
The link between inflammatory signaling and Src-dependent MAPK activation in our studies remains to be determined. One possibility may be the TNF receptor-associated proteins (TRAFs). Binding of IL-1β to the IL-1 receptor activates IL-1 receptor associated kinases that recruit TRAFs. TNF receptors also recruit TRAFs through the TNF receptor DEATH domain (TRADD). In fibroblasts, Src interacting with TRAF2 links TNFα stimulation to ERK MAPK  and TRAF proteins also activate NF-κB through recruitment of IκB kinase (see review by ). The contribution of IFNγ signaling to Src-dependent ERK MAPK activation is less clear. Interactions between Src tyrosine kinases and receptor-associated JAKs are often required for complete STAT activation  but downstream activation of ERK MAPK has not been demonstrated. It has been proposed that IFNγ can directly activate ERK MAPK pathways through MEKK1  but the signaling intermediates, if any, are unknown. Another possibility could involve heterotrimeric Gi subunits implicated in Src-dependent activation of ERK MAPK in airway myocytes stimulated with PDGF . The contribution of these proteins have not been widely examined in the context of IL-1β TNFα or IFNγ signaling, which are more likely to utilize small GTPases such as Rac1  and RhoA . Thus, while these results demonstrate that Src participate in the regulation of inflammatory gene expression through activation of ERK MAPK, further studies will explore the signaling pathways linking Src-dependent cytokine stimulation to MAPK activation.
Acknowledgements and Funding
The authors would like to thank Ms. Shanti Rawat and Ms. Michelle Deetken for their excellent technical assistance. This work was supported by a Minority Investigator Research Supplement from the NIH/NHLBI to CAS and by the NIH/NHLBI HL48183-10 to WTG.
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