Temporal regulation of cytokine mRNA expression by tristetraprolin: dynamic control by p38 MAPK and MKP-1

Pavan Prabhala, Kristin Bunge, Md Mostafizur Rahman, Qi Ge, Andrew R. Clark, Alaina J. Ammit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Cytokines drive many inflammatory diseases, including asthma. Understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for cytokine secretion will allow us to develop novel strategies to repress inflammation in the future. Harnessing the power of endogenous anti-inflammatory proteins is one such strategy. In this study, we investigate the p38 MAPK-mediated regulatory interaction of two anti-inflammatory proteins, mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 1 (MKP-1) and tristetraprolin (TTP), in the context of asthmatic inflammation. Using primary cultures of airway smooth muscle cells in vitro, we explored the temporal regulation of IL-6 cytokine mRNA expression upon stimulation with TNF-α. Intriguingly, the temporal profile of mRNA expression was biphasic. This was not due to COX-2-derived prostanoid upregulation, increased expression of NLRP3 inflammasome components, or upregulation of the cognate receptor for TNF-α- TNFR1. Rather, the biphasic nature of TNF-α-induced IL-6 mRNA expression was regulated temporally by the RNA-destabilizing molecule, TTP. Importantly, TTP function is controlled by p38 MAPK, and our study reveals that its expression in airway smooth muscle cells is p38 MAPK-dependent and its anti-inflammatory activity is also controlled by p38 MAPK-mediated phosphorylation. MKP-1 is a MAPK deactivator; thus, by controlling p38 MAPK phosphorylation status in a temporally distinct manner, MKP-1 ensures that TTP is expressed and made functional at precisely the correct time to repress cytokine expression. Together, p38 MAPK, MKP-1, and TTP may form a regulatory network that exerts significant control on cytokine secretion in proasthmatic inflammation through precise temporal signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L973-L980
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number9
Early online date27 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • IL-6
  • Inflammation
  • MKP-1
  • P38 MAPK
  • Tristetraprolin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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