Basal p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase regulates unliganded glucocorticoid receptor function in airway smooth muscle cells

Belaid Bouazza, Manel Debba-Pavard, Yassine Amrani, Lauren Isaacs, Danielle O'Connell, Sara Ahmed, Danielle Formella, Omar Tliba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Like many steroid receptors, the glucocorticoid (GC) receptor (GR) is a phosphoprotein. Although there are multiple phosphorylation sites critical for GR transcriptional activity (i.e., serine [S]203, S211, and S226), their respective role in driving GR functions is highly cell specific. We have recently identified protein phosphatase 5 as an essential Ser/Thr phosphatase responsible for impairing GR function via S211 dephosphorylation in airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells. Because p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) directly phosphorylates GR in different cell types in a stimulus- and celldependent manner, we investigated the role of p38 MAPK on GR phosphorylation and function in ASM cells. Cells were transfected with 100 nM p38 MAPK small interfering RNA or 2 mg MAPK kinase kinase 3 expression vector (a specific kinase that directly activates p38 MAPK) in the presence or absence of fluticasone (100 nM) and/or p38 MAPK pharmacological inhibitor SB203580. We found that p38 MAPK blockade positively regulates GR nuclear translocation and GR-dependent induction of the steroid-target gene GC-induced leucine zipper in a hormone-independent manner. We also found that p38 MAPK-dependent regulation of GR functions was associated with a differential action on GR phosphorylation at S203 and S211 residues. This study demonstrated that the inactive state of GR in resting conditions is not only ensured by the absence of the GC ligand but also by p38 MAPK-dependent phosphorylation of unliganded GR at specific residues, which appears to be important in determining the overall GC responsiveness of ASM cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-315
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


  • Airway smooth muscle
  • Asthma
  • Glucocorticoid receptor phosphorylation
  • P38 MAPK
  • Steroid resistance


Dive into the research topics of 'Basal p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase regulates unliganded glucocorticoid receptor function in airway smooth muscle cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this