A p38MAPK/HIF-1 pathway initiated by UVB irradiation is required to induce Noxa and apoptosis of human keratinocytes

Kris Nys, An Van Laethem, Carine Michiels, Noemie Rubio, Jacques G. Piette, Maria Garmyn, Patrizia Agostinis

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The signal transduction pathways leading to apoptosis of human keratinocytes responding to UVB irradiation are complex and not completely understood. Previously, we reported that in UVB-irradiated keratinocytes, p38MAPK instigates Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax) activation and mitochondrial apoptosis. However, the molecular mechanism underlying the pro-apoptotic function of p38MAPK remained unclear. Here, we show that in UVB-treated human primary keratinocytes the activation of p38MAPK is necessary to upregulate Noxa, a BH3-only pro-apoptotic dominantly induced by UVB and required for apoptosis. Whereas p53-silencing was marginally cytoprotective and poorly affected Noxa expression, p38MAPK inhibition in p53-silenced keratinocytes or in p53 / cells could still efficiently prevent Noxa induction and intrinsic apoptosis after UVB, indicating that p38MAPK signals mainly through p53-independent mechanisms. Furthermore, p38MAPK was required for the induction and activation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) in response to UVB, and HIF-1 knockdown reduced Noxa expression and apoptosis. In UVB-irradiated keratinocytes, Noxa targeted the anti-apoptotic myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (Mcl-1) for degradation, and small-interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of Noxa or p38MAPK inhibition restored levels of Mcl-1 and abolished apoptosis. Thus, the pro-apoptotic mechanisms orchestrated by p38MAPK in human keratinocytes in response to UVB involve an HIF-1/Noxa axis, which prompts the downregulation of anti-apoptotic Mcl-1, thereby favoring Bax-mediated mitochondrial apoptosis of UVB-damaged keratinocytes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2269-2276
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase; PUMA
  • B-cell lymphoma-extra large; Bim
  • myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1; NHK
  • Bcl-2/adeNovirus E1B 19 kDa protein-interacting protein 3; HIF-1
  • Bcl-2-interacting mediator of cell death; BNIP3
  • p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis; SBC
  • normal human keratinocyte; PARP
  • sunburn cell;(...)
  • Bcl-2-associated X protein; Bcl-2
  • hypoxia-inducible factor 1; MAPK
  • B-cell lymphoma; Bcl-xL
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase; Mcl-1
  • Ask-1
  • apoptosis signaling kinase 1; Bax

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