Author(s): Wang WH, Grgori G, Hullinger RL, Andrisani OM
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Abstract Activation of the cellular stress pathways (c-Jun N-terminal kinase [JNK] and p38 mitogen-activated protein [MAP] kinase) is linked to apoptosis. However, whether both pathways are required for apoptosis remains unresolved. Hepatitis B virus X protein (pX) activates p38 MAP kinase and JNK pathways and, in response to weak apoptotic signals, sensitizes hepatocytes to apoptosis. Employing hepatocyte cell lines expressing pX, which was regulated by tetracycline, we investigated the mechanism of apoptosis by p38 MAP kinase and JNK pathway activation. Inhibition of the p38 MAP kinase pathway rescues by 80\% the initiation of pX-mediated apoptosis, whereas subsequent apoptotic events involve both pathways. pX-mediated activation of p38 MAP kinase and JNK pathways is sustained, inducing the transcription of the death receptor family genes encoding Fas/FasL and tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1)/TNF-alpha and the p53-regulated Bax and Noxa genes. The pX-dependent expression of Fas/FasL and TNFR1/TNF-alpha mediates caspase 8 activation, resulting in Bid cleavage. In turn, activated Bid, acting with pX-induced Bax and Noxa, mediates the mitochondrial release of cytochrome c, resulting in the activation of caspase 9 and apoptosis. Combined antibody neutralization of FasL and TNF-alpha reduces by 70\% the initiation of pX-mediated apoptosis. These results support the importance of the pX-dependent activation of both the p38 MAP kinase and JNK pathways in pX-mediated apoptosis and suggest that this mechanism of apoptosis occurs in vivo in response to weak apoptotic signals.
This article was published in Mol Cell Biol
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