Pro-inflammatory cytokines and environmental stress cause p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase activation by dual phosphorylation on tyrosine and threonine.
Protein kinases activated by dual phosphorylation on Tyr and Thr (MAP kinases) can be grouped into two major classes: ERK and JNK. The ERK group regulates multiple targets in response to growth factors via a Ras-dependent mechanism. In contrast, JNK activates the transcription factor c-Jun in response to pro-inflammatory cytokines and exposure of cells to several forms of environmental stress. Recently, a novel mammalian protein kinase (p38) that shares sequence similarity with mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases was identified. Here, we demonstrate that p38, like JNK, is activated by treatment of cells with pro-inflammatory cytokines and environmental stress. The mechanism of p38 activation is mediated by dual phosphorylation on Thr-180 and Tyr-182. Immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrated that p38 MAP kinase is present in both the nucleus and cytoplasm of activated cells. Together, these data establish that p38 is a member of the mammalian MAP kinase group.