The p38-MK2-HuR pathway potentiates EGFRvIII-IL-1β-driven IL-6 secretion in glioblastoma cells

F. M S Gurgis, Y. T. Yeung, M. X M Tang, B. Heng, M. Buckland, A. J. Ammit, J. Haapasalo, H. Haapasalo, G. J. Guillemin, T. Grewal, L. Munoz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The microenvironment of glioblastoma (GBM) contains high levels of inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6), which contributes to promote tumour progression and invasion. The common epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII) mutation in GBM is associated with significantly higher levels of IL-6. Furthermore, elevated IL-1β levels in GBM tumours are also believed to activate GBM cells and enhance IL-6 production. However, the crosstalk between these intrinsic and extrinsic factors within the oncogene-microenvironment of GBM causing overproduction of IL-6 is poorly understood. Here, we show that EGFRvIII potentiates IL-1β-induced IL-6 secretion from GBM cells. Importantly, exacerbation of IL-6 production is most effectively attenuated in EGFRvIII-expressing GBM cells with inhibitors of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) and MAPK-activated protein kinase 2 (MK2). Enhanced IL-6 production and increased sensitivity toward pharmacological p38 MAPK and MK2 inhibitors in EGFRvIII-expressing GBM cells is associated with increased MK2-dependent nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttling and accumulation of human antigen R (HuR), an IL-6 mRNA-stabilising protein, in the cytosol. IL-1β-stimulated activation of the p38 MAPK-MK2-HuR pathway significantly enhances IL-6 mRNA stability in GBM cells carrying EGFRvIII. Further supporting a role for the p38 MAPK-MK2-HuR pathway in the development of inflammatory environment in GBM, activated MK2 is found in more than 50% of investigated GBM tissues and correlates with lower grade and secondary GBMs. Taken together, p38 MAPK-MK2-HuR signalling may enhance the potential of intrinsic (EGFRvIII) and extrinsic (IL-1β) factors to develop an inflammatory GBM environment. Hence, further improvement of brain-permeable and anti-inflammatory inhibitors targeting p38 MAPK, MK2 and HuR may combat progression of lower grade gliomas into aggressive GBMs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2934-2942
Number of pages9
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015


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