BACKGROUND - Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), consisting of the ERK1/2, JNKs, and p38-kinase families, play a key role in the regulation of myocyte growth and apoptosis in vitro. The activity of MAPKs is regulated by dual-specificity MAPK phosphatases (MKPs). Because myocardial failure is associated with myocyte hypertrophy and apoptosis, MAPKs may play a pathophysiologic role in human myocardial failure.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We measured MAPKs activities and the protein levels of MAPKs and MKPs (MKP-1 and MKP-2) in the myocardium explanted at the time of transplantation from patients with end-stage failure caused by idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (n = 5-7). Nonfailing donor hearts (n = 5-7) were used for comparison. Although the protein levels for JNK1/2 and p38-kinase in failing hearts were not different from levels in nonfailing hearts, the activities of both were decreased (P <.05). Despite a >3-fold increase in the protein level for ERK1/2 in failing hearts, ERK1/2 activity was not increased. Expression of MKP-2 was significantly increased in failing hearts, while expression of MKP-1 was increased in 5 of 7 failing hearts as measured by Western analysis.
CONCLUSIONS - JNK1/2 and p38 activities are decreased in failing human myocardium. Increased expression of MKPs may therefore contribute to decreased MAPKs activity in failing human myocardium.