Growth factors and various cellular stresses are known to activate mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, which plays a role in conveying signals from the cytosol to the nucleus. The phosphorylation of MAP kinase is thought to be a prerequisite for translocation. Here, we investigate the translocation and activation of MAP kinase during ischaemia and reperfusion in perfused rat heart. Ischaemia (0–40 min) induces the translocation of MAP kinase from the cytosol fraction to the nuclear fraction. Immunohistochemical observation shows that MAP kinase staining in the nucleus is enhanced after ischaemia for 40 min. Unexpectedly, tyrosine phosphorylation of MAP kinase is unchanged in the nuclear fraction during ischaemia, indicating that unphosphorylated MAP kinase translocates from the cytosol to the nucleus. During reperfusion (0–30 min), after ischaemia for 20 min, tyrosine phosphorylation of MAP kinase in the nuclear fraction is increased with a peak at 10 min of reperfusion. The activation is confirmed by MAP kinase activity with similar kinetics to the tyrosine phosphorylation. However, the amount of MAP kinase in the fraction is almost constant during reperfusion for 10 min. Although an upstream kinase for MAP kinase, MAP kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK)-1, remains in the cytosol throughout ischaemia and reperfusion, MEK-2, another upstream kinase for MAP kinase, is constantly present in the nucleus as well as in the cytoplasm, based on analyses by fractionation and immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, MEK-2 activity in the nuclear fraction is rapidly increased during post-ischaemic reperfusion. These findings demonstrate that nuclear MAP kinase is activated by tyrosine phosphorylation during reperfusion, probably by MEK-2.

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