Mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitors reduce the nuclear accumulation of phosphorylated Smads by inhibiting Imp 7 or Imp 8 in HepG2 cells
- Xiangpeng Hu
- Hongwei Kan
- Alex Boye
- Yufeng Jiang
- Chao Wu
- Yan Yang
Published online on: February 2, 2018
Copyright: © Hu et al.
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License.
The transforming growth factor (TGF)-β/Smad signaling pathway is involved in hepatocellular carcinoma development. Smad2 and Smad3 are phosphorylated following TGF‑β1 stimulation and subsequently oligomerize with Smad4 to form the Smad2/3/4 complex, which translocates into the nucleus and regulates target genes, including plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI1). Importin (Imp)7 and Imp8 are responsible for transporting phosphorylated (p)Smad2/3 and Smad4 into the nucleus. In our previous study, it was demonstrated that mitogen‑activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors, including inhibitors of extracellular signal‑regulated kinase (ERK), c‑Jun N‑terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 could inhibit the transcription of PAI1, but ERK inhibitor had no significant effect on the phosphorylation of Smad2/3, and the formation of Smad2/3/4 complexes, which was different from the effect of JNK or p38 inhibitor. We hypothesized that MAPK inhibitors, particularly ERK inhibitor, reduced the transport of Smads into the nucleus by affecting Imp7 and Imp8. To confirm this hypothesis, HepG2 cells were incubated with different MAPK inhibitors for 5 h and subsequently stimulated with TGF‑β1 for 1 h. Next, the intracellular locations of Smads (pSmad2C, pSmad2L, pSmad3C, pSmad3L and Smad4) and Imp7/8 were detected using immunofluorescence staining assays, and the expression of Imp7/8 was investigated using immunoblotting. It was revealed that JNK or p38 inhibitor decreased the phosphorylation of Smad2C, Smad2L and Smad3L, and affected their nuclear accumulation. Although only inhibiting the phosphorylation of Smad2C, ERK inhibitor affected the nuclear accumulation of pSmad2C, pSmad2L, pSmad3C and pSmad3L. The three MAPK inhibitors attenuated the nuclear distribution of Smad4, and the expression and nuclear accumulation of Imp7. ERK and JNK inhibitors attenuated the expression and nuclear accumulation of Imp8. Thus, the results of the present study suggest that MAPK inhibitors, particularly ERK inhibitor, modulate the nuclear accumulation of Smads via the inhibition of Imp 7/8.