The Journal of biological chemistry

p38δ regulates p53 to control p21Cip1 expression in human epidermal keratinocytes.

PMID 24599959


PKCδ suppresses keratinocyte proliferation via a mechanism that involves increased expression of p21(Cip1). However, the signaling mechanism that mediates this regulation is not well understood. Our present studies suggest that PKCδ activates p38δ leading to increased p21(Cip1) promoter activity and p21(Cip1) mRNA/protein expression. We further show that exogenously expressed p38δ increases p21(Cip1) mRNA and protein and that p38δ knockdown or expression of dominant-negative p38 attenuates this increase. Moreover, p53 is an intermediary in this regulation, as p38δ expression increases p53 mRNA, protein, and promoter activity, and p53 knockdown attenuates the activation. We demonstrate a direct interaction of p38δ with PKCδ and MEK3 and show that exogenous agents that suppress keratinocyte proliferation activate this pathway. We confirm the importance of this regulation using a stratified epidermal equivalent model, which mimics in vivo-like keratinocyte differentiation. In this model, PKCδ or p38δ knockdown results in reduced p53 and p21(Cip1) levels and enhanced cell proliferation. We propose that PKCδ activates a MEKK1/MEK3/p38δ MAPK cascade to increase p53 levels and p53 drives p21(Cip1) gene expression.