p38 MAPK as a signal transduction component of heavy metals stress inEuglena gracilis

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Living organisms are subject to stress, and among these stressors, heavy metals exposure triggers accumulation of sulfur metabolites. Among these metabolites, glutathione and phytochelatins are found in several organisms, such as Euglena gracilis. Pre-exposing E. gracilis to low concentrations of Hg2+ generates a population with resistance to even 0.2 mM Cd2+, and this resistance relies partly on phytochelatins. p38 MAPK is stimulated by stress and is involved in apoptotic as well as survival mechanisms. In this study, we explored its participation in heavy metal-induced stress and its possible role in sulfur metabolite accumulation. We found that about 51% of the E. gracilis pretreated with Hg2+ becomes resistant to Cd2+ and proliferates despite the presence of this metal. The accumulation of the sulfur metabolites γ-glu-cys, glutathione and phytochelatin 2 displayed cyclic patterns that were disturbed by a challenge with Cd2+. We observed a p38 MAPK-like activity that was stimulated by acute or chronic heavy metal exposure, and its inhibition by SB203580 slightly diminished the accumulation of sulfur compounds. p38 MAPK inhibition also affected basal levels of glutathione in either pretreated or control cells. Thus, it appears that p38 MAPK mediates redox stress component of the signal pathway induced by heavy metals.

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