The glucocorticoid receptor is a nuclear receptor, and can be activated by glucocorticoid ligands. Mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinase (MSK1), when activated by p38 and ERK mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), plays a major role in chromatin relaxation via phosphorylation of histone H3 S10. The glucocorticoid receptor can target MSK1 as part of its anti-inflammatory mechanism. Here, we studied the converse mechanism, i.e. the impact of MSK1 on glucocorticoid receptor-mediated transactivation.
Upstream MSK1-activating kinases concentration-dependently enhanced glucocorticoid response element (GRE)-regulated promoter activity. Correspondingly, MSK1 inhibition, via H89, or combined p38 and ERK MAPK inhibition, via SB203580 and U0126, diminished maximally stimulated GRE-regulated promoter activity using high concentrations of glucocorticoids. Concomitantly, the combination of these agents does not seem to alter site-specific phosphorylations of murine glucocorticoid receptor S212 or S220. Paradoxically, we reveal that a sub-maximally activated GRE-mediated promoter activity, by using lower concentrations of glucocorticoids, is consistently enhanced by H89 or a combination of SB203580 and U0126, irrespective of the GRE promoter context. Furthermore, we show that the glucocorticoid-induced nucleocytoplasmic translocation of MSK1 occurs in a glucocorticoid concentration-dependent manner. The observed glucocorticoid concentration-dependent effect of MSK1 or MAPK inhibition on glucocorticoid receptor transactivation warrants further research into the applicability of combined glucocorticoid and kinase inhibitor strategies for anti-inflammatory purposes.