Research ArticleMICRORNAs

Signaling by p38 MAPK Stimulates Nuclear Localization of the Microprocessor Component p68 for Processing of Selected Primary MicroRNAs

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Sci. Signal.  12 Mar 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 266, pp. ra16
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003706

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The importance of microRNAs (miRNAs) in biological and disease processes necessitates a better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate miRNA abundance. We showed that the activities of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) p38 and its downstream effector kinase MAPK-activated protein kinase 2 (MK2) were necessary for the efficient processing of a subset of primary miRNAs (pri-miRNAs). Through yeast two-hybrid screening, we identified p68 (also known as DDX5), a key component of the Drosha complex that processes pri-miRNAs, as an MK2-interacting protein, and we found that MK2 phosphorylated p68 at Ser197 in cells. In wild-type mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) treated with a p38 inhibitor or in MK2-deficient (MK2−/−) MEFs, expression of a phosphomimetic mutant p68 fully restored pri-miRNA processing, suggesting that MK2-mediated phosphorylation of p68 was essential for this process. We found that, whereas p68 was present in the nuclei of wild-type MEFs, it was found mostly in the cytoplasm of MK2−/− MEFs. Nuclear localization of p68 depended on MK2-mediated phosphorylation of Ser197. In addition, inhibition of p38 MAPK promoted the growth of wild-type MEFs and breast cancer MCF7 cells by enhancing the abundance of c-Myc through suppression of the biogenesis of the miRNA miR-145, which targets c-Myc. Because pri-miRNA processing occurs in the nucleus, our findings suggest that the p38 MAPK–MK2 signaling pathway promotes miRNA biogenesis by facilitating the nuclear localization of p68.

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