Thioredoxin-ASK1 complex levels regulate ROS-mediated p38 MAPK pathway activity in livers of aged and long-lived Snell dwarf mice

Ching Chyuan Hsieh, John Papaconstantinou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

136 Scopus citations


We have proposed that the age-associated increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by electron transport chain (ETC) dysfunction may cause the elevated basal level of p38 MAPK stress response pathway activity. However, the mechanism by which ROS activates this pathway is not clear. Here we propose that activation of the p38 MAPK pathway by complex I (CI) generated ROS, in response to rotenone (ROT) treatment, is based on the ability of reduced Trx to bind to and inhibit ASK 1 and its release from the complex upon oxidation. This balance of free vs. bound ASK1 regulates the level of p38 MAPK pathway activity. To support this mechanism we demonstrate that the production of ROS by ROT treated AML12 hepatocyte cells dissociates the Trx-ASK1 complex, thereby increasing p38 MAPK pathway activity. This mechanism is supported by the ability of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) to prevent dissociation of Trx-ASK1 and activation of the p38 MAPK pathway. We also demonstrated that the ratio of ASK1/Trx-ASK1 increases in aged mouse livers and that this correlates with the increased basal activity of the p38 MAPK pathway. The longevity of Snell dwarf mice has been attributed to their resistance to oxidative stress. A comparison of the levels of Trx-ASK1 in young and aged dwarfs showed a higher abundance of the complex than in their age-matched controls. These results, which are indicative of a decreased level of oxidative stress, suggest that increased ROS production in aged liver may alter the ratio of ASK1 and Trx-ASK1, thereby increasing the age-associated basal level of p38 MAPK pathway activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-268
Number of pages10
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006



  • MAPK signaling
  • MKK3 kinase
  • MKP-1 levels
  • Rotenone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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