Interaction of the neuropeptide substance P (SP) and its neurokinin-1 receptor (NK-1R) plays an important role in the pathophysiology of intestinal inflammation. SP is known to stimulate production of interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8 in the U-373-MG human astrocytoma cell line via activation of p38 MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) and nuclear factor (NF)-κB, respectively. However, the signalling mechanisms by which SP-NK-1R interaction induces NF-κB activation and IL-8 expression are still not clear. In this study we demonstrate that SP stimulates IL-8 secretion and IL-8 promoter activity in the NCM460 non-transformed human colonic epithelial cell line transfected with NK-1R cDNA. Our results indicate that inhibition of endogenous Rho family proteins (RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42) by their respective dominant negative mutants significantly decreases SP-induced IL-8 secretion and IL-8 promoter activity. We also demonstrate that SP rapidly activates RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42 and that co-expression of the dominant negative mutants of RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42 in NK-1R cDNA-transfected NCM460 cells significantly inhibits SP-induced NF-κB-dependent gene expression. These results demonstrate that Rho family small GTPases RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42 are novel signal transducers for SP-stimulated IL-8 expression.

Abbreviations used: GPCR, G-protein-coupled receptor; IL, interleukin; LacZ, β-galactosidase; MAPK, mitogen-activated protein kinase; NF, nuclear factor; NK, neurokinin; NK-1R, neurokinin-1 receptor; SP, substance P; SRE, serum response element; TNF, tumour necrosis factor.

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