The p38 and JNK classes of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have evolutionarily conserved roles in the control of cellular responses to microbial and abiotic stresses. The mechanisms by which crosstalk between distinct p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) MAPK pathways occurs with resultant integration of signaling information have been difficult to establish, particularly in the context of whole organism physiology. In Caenorhabditis elegans a PMK-1 p38 MAPK pathway is required for resistance to bacterial infection, and a KGB-1 JNK-like MAPK pathway has recently been shown to mediate resistance to heavy metal stress. Here, we show that two components of the KGB-1 pathway, MEK-1 MAPK kinase (MAPKK), a homolog of mammalian MKK7, and VHP-1 MAPK phosphatase (MKP), a homolog of mammalian MKP7, also regulate pathogen resistance through the modulation of PMK-1 activity. The regulation of p38 and JNK-like MAPK pathways mediating immunity and heavy metal stress by common MAPKK and MKP signaling components suggests pivotal roles for MEK-1 and VHP-1 in the integration of diverse stress signals contributing to pathogen resistance in C. elegans. In addition, these data point to mechanisms in multicellular organisms by which signals transduced by distinct MAPK pathways may be subject to physiological integration at the level of regulation of MAPK activity by MAPKKs and MKPs.
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