The effect of ROCK on TNF-α-induced CXCL8 secretion by intestinal epithelial cell lines is mediated through MKK4 and JNK signaling.
Elevated levels of interleukin-1 (IL-1) accompany inflammatory bowel disease. IL-1-stimulated intestinal epithelial cells can secrete potent chemokines like CXCL8 to exacerbate inflammation. Previously, we found that inhibiting the Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) could inhibit IL-1- or TNF-α-induced CXCL8 secretion by the Caco-2 colonic epithelial cell line. This ROCK inhibition did not affect IκBα phosphorylation and degradation, but suppressed the phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Therefore, ROCK must play an important role in epithelial cell CXCL8 responses through an effect on the JNK signaling pathway. Here, we extend these studies by showing that inhibiting ROCK suppressed the IL-1-induced phosphorylation of MKK4, a known activator of JNK, but not MKK7. Yet, ROCK inhibition had no significant effect on the IL-1-induced phosphorylation of extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2. Inhibiting ROCK also suppressed the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK after IL-1 stimulation, but this inhibition had no significant effect on the stability of CXCL8 messenger RNA (mRNA) after IL-1 stimulation. These results suggest that ROCK may be important in IL-1-induced signaling through MKK4 to JNK and the activation of p38 MAPK. Finally, inhibiting ROCK in IL-1 and TNF-α co-stimulated Caco-2 cells also resulted in a significant suppression of CXCL8 secretion and mRNA levels suggesting that inhibiting ROCK may be a mechanism to inhibit the overall response of epithelial cells to both cytokines. These studies indicate a novel signaling event, which could provide a target for suppressing intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) chemokine responses involved in mucosal inflammation.