We have shown previously that cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) is responsible for endothelin-1-induced release of arachidonic acid for prostaglandin synthesis in cat iris sphincter smooth muscle (CISM) cells [Husain and Abdel-Latif (1998) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1392, 127-144]. Here we show that p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, but not p42/p44 MAP kinases, plays an important role in the phosphorylation and activation of cPLA2 in endothelin-1-stimulated CISM cells. This conclusion is supported by the following findings. Both p38 MAP kinase and p42/p44 MAP kinases were present in the CISM cells and both were activated by endothelin-1. SB203580, a potent specific inhibitor of p38 MAP kinase, but not the p42/p44 MAP kinases specific inhibitor, PD98059, markedly suppressed endothelin-1-enhanced cPLA2 phosphorylation, cPLA2 activity and arachidonic acid release. The addition of endothelin-1 resulted in the phosphorylation and activation of cPLA2. Endothelin-1 stimulated p38 MAP kinase activity in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, and these effects were mediated through the endothelin-A receptor subtype. The protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, RO 31-8220, had no inhibitory effect on endothelin-1-induced p38 MAP kinase activation, suggesting that endothelin-1 activation of p38 MAP kinase is independent of PKC. Pertussis toxin inhibited both endothelin-1 and mastoparan stimulation of p38 MAP kinase activity and arachidonic acid release. The inhibitory effects of pertussis toxin are not mediated through cAMP formation. Mastoparan-stimulated [3H]arachidonic acid release and cPLA2 activation was inhibited by SB203580, but not by RO 31-8220. These data suggest that endothelin-1 binds to the endothelin-A receptor to activate the Gi-protein which, through a series of kinases, leads to the activation of p38 MAP kinase and subsequently to phosphorylation and activation of cPLA2. Activation of cPLA2 leads to the liberation of arachidonic acid from membrane phospholipids. The ability of the activated endothelin-A receptor, which is coupled to both Gq- and Gi-proteins, to recruit and activate this complex signal transduction pathway remains to be elucidated. Further studies on the mechanism of these relationships could provide important information about the functions of p38 MAP kinase in smooth muscle.

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