Requirement of p38 stress-activated MAP kinase for cell death in the developing retina depends on the stage of cell differentiation
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The p38 members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) superfamily are activated by both environmental stress and endogenous signals, and may have either permissive or inhibitory roles upon both cell proliferation and cell death in the retina. We have previously shown that anisomycin, a protein synthesis inhibitor, and 2-aminopurine, a specific inhibitor of the double stranded-RNA dependent protein kinase, block apoptosis of ganglion cells induced by axotomy, and induce apoptosis of cells in the neuroblastic layer in developing rat retina. Using a specific inhibitor, we found that p38-stress activated MAP kinase is required for the death of post-mitotic cells induced by anisomycin, but not for the death of proliferating cells induced by 2-aminopurine, nor of axon-damaged retinal ganglion cells. We also show that p38 activation occurs either upstream of or parallel to the requirement for cyclic AMP to block apoptosis of post-mitotic cells, since the cyclic AMP-producing agent forskolin did not prevent p38 phosphorylation induced by anisomycin. Finally, the lack of immunostaining for phospho-p38 in apoptotic profiles suggests that p38 activation does not kill retinal cells directly, but more likely through the mediation of neighboring cells.
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