The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

MAP kinase phosphatase 1 (MKP-1/DUSP1) is neuroprotective in Huntington's disease via additive effects of JNK and p38 inhibition.

PMID 23392662


We previously demonstrated that sodium butyrate is neuroprotective in Huntington's disease (HD) mice and that this therapeutic effect is associated with increased expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase/dual-specificity phosphatase 1 (MKP-1/DUSP1). Here we show that enhancing MKP-1 expression is sufficient to achieve neuroprotection in lentiviral models of HD. Wild-type MKP-1 overexpression inhibited apoptosis in primary striatal neurons exposed to an N-terminal fragment of polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin (Htt171-82Q), blocking caspase-3 activation and significantly reducing neuronal cell death. This neuroprotective effect of MKP-1 was demonstrated to be dependent on its enzymatic activity, being ablated by mutation of its phosphatase domain and being attributed to inhibition of specific MAP kinases (MAPKs). Overexpression of MKP-1 prevented the polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin-induced activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) and p38 MAPKs, whereas extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 activation was not altered by either polyglutamine-expanded Htt or MKP-1. Moreover, mutants of MKP-1 that selectively prevented p38 or JNK binding confirmed the important dual contributions of p38 and JNK regulation to MKP-1-mediated neuroprotection. These results demonstrate additive effects of p38 and JNK MAPK inhibition by MKP-1 without consequence to ERK activation in this striatal neuron-based paradigm. MKP-1 also provided neuroprotection in vivo in a lentiviral model of HD neuropathology in rat striatum. Together, these data extend previous evidence that JNK- and p38-mediated pathways contribute to HD pathogenesis and, importantly, show that therapies simultaneously inhibiting both JNK and p38 signaling pathways may lead to improved neuroprotective outcomes.