TFEB (transcription factor EB) and TFE3 (transcription factor E3) are "master regulators" of autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. The stress response p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases affect multiple intracellular responses including inflammation, cell growth, differentiation, cell death, senescence, tumorigenesis, and autophagy. Small molecule p38 MAP kinase inhibitors such as SB202190 are widely used in dissection of related signal transduction mechanisms including redox biology and autophagy. Here, we initially aimed to investigate the links between p38 MAP kinase and TFEB/TFE3-mediated autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. Unexpectedly, we found that only SB202190, rather than several other p38 inhibitors, promotes TFEB and TFE3 to translocate from the cytosol into the nucleus and subsequently enhances autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. In addition, siRNA-mediated Tfeb and Tfe3 knockdown effectively attenuated SB202190-induced gene expression and lysosomal biogenesis. Mechanistical studies showed that TFEB and TFE3 activation in response to SB202190 is dependent on PPP3/calcineurin rather than on the inhibition of p38 or MTOR signaling, the main pathway for regulating TFEB and TFE3 activation. Importantly, SB202190 increased intracellular calcium levels, and calcium chelator BAPTAP-AM blocked SB202190-induced TFEB and TFE3 activation as well as autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis. Moreover, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) calcium is required for TFEB and TFE3 activation in response to SB202190. In summary, we identified a previously uncharacterized role of SB202190 in activating TFEB- and TFE3-dependent autophagy and lysosomal biogenesis via ER calcium release and subsequent calcium-dependent PPP3/calcineurin activation, leading to dephosphorylation of TFEB and TFE3. Given the importance of p38 MAP kinase invarious conditions including oxidative stress, the findings collectively indicate that SB202190 should not be used as a specific inhibitor for elucidating the p38 MAP kinase biological functions due to its potential effect on activating autophagy-lysosomal axis.
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