Roles of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in the regulation of SOX9 activity and chondrogenesis
Sox9 is a master transcription factor in chondrocyte differentiation. Several lines of evidence suggest that the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is involved in chondrocyte differentiation. In the present study, we examined the roles of p38 in the regulation of SOX9 activity and chondrogenesis. COS7 cells were transfected with a SOX9 expression vector and 4x48-p89, a luciferase construction harboring four tandem copies of a SOX9-dependent 48-bp enhancer in Col2a1. Coexpression of MKK6EE, a constitutively active mutant of MKK6, a MAPKK that specifically activates p38, further increased the activity of the SOX9-dependent 48-bp enhancer about 5-fold, and SOX9 protein levels were not increased under these conditions. This increase in enhancer activity was not observed in a mutant enhancer construct harboring mutations that abolish SOX9 binding. These data strongly suggested that activation of the p38 pathway results in increased activity of SOX9. In addition, the increase of the activity of the SOX9-dependent 48-bp enhancer by MKK6EE was also observed in primary chondrocytes, and this increase was abolished by coexpression of a p38 phosphatase, MKP5, and p38 specific inhibitors. Furthermore, treatment of primary chondrocytes with p38 inhibitors decreased the expression of Col2a1, a downstream target of Sox9, without affecting Sox9 RNA levels, further supporting the hypothesis that p38 plays a role in regulating Sox9 activity in chondrocytes. To further study the role of the p38 MAPK pathway in chondrogenesis, we generated transgenic mice that express MKK6EE in chondrocytes under the control of the Col2a1 promoter/intron regulatory sequences. These mice showed a dwarf phenotype characterized by reduced chondrocyte proliferation and a delay in the formation of primary and secondary ossification centers. Histological analysis using in situ hybridization showed reduced expression of Indian hedgehog, PTH/PTHrP receptor, cyclin D1 and increased expression of p21. In addition, consistent with the notion that Sox9 activity was increased in these mice, transgenic mice that express MKK6EE in chondrocytes showed phenotypes similar to those of mice that overexpress SOX9 in chondrocytes. Therefore, our study provides in vivo evidence for the role of p38 in chondrocyte differentiation and suggests that Sox9 is a downstream target of the p38 MAPK pathway.
Zhang, Ren, "Roles of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in the regulation of SOX9 activity and chondrogenesis" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3163233.