Inhibition of JNK by overexpression of the JNL binding domain of JIP-1 prevents apoptosis in sympathetic neurons.
Harding TC., Xue L., Bienemann A., Haywood D., Dickens M., Tolkovsky AM., Uney JB.
Studies in non-neuronal cells show that c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK) play a key role in apoptotic cell death. In some neurons JNK is also thought to initiate cell death by the activation of c-Jun. JNK inhibition has been achieved pharmacologically by inhibiting upstream kinases, but there has been no direct demonstration that inhibition of JNK can prevent neuronal death. We have therefore examined whether the JNK binding domain (JBD) of JNK-interacting protein-1 (JIP-1, a scaffold protein and specific inhibitor of JNK) can inhibit c-Jun phosphorylation and support the survival of sympathetic neurons deprived of NGF. We show that expression of the JBD in >80% of neurons was sufficient to prevent the phosphorylation of c-Jun and its nuclear accumulation as well as abrogate neuronal cell death induced by NGF deprivation. JBD expression also preserved the capacity of mitochondria to reduce MTT. Interestingly, although the PTB domain of JIP was reported to interact with rhoGEF, expression of the JBD domain was sufficient to localize the protein to the membrane cortex and growth cones. Hence, JNK activation is a key event in apoptotic death induced by NGF withdrawal, where its point of action lies upstream of mitochondrial dysfunction.