p38γ MAPK is required for inflammation-associated colon tumorigenesis

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Chronic inflammation has long been considered to causatively link to colon cancer development. However, signal transduction pathways involved remain largely unidentified. Here, we report that p38γ mitogen-activated protein kinase mediates inflammatory signaling to promote colon tumorigenesis. Inflammation activates p38γ in mouse colon tissues and intestinal epithelial cell-specific p38γ knockout (KO) attenuates colitis and inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokine expression. Significantly, p38γ KO inhibits tumorigenesis in a colitis-associated mouse model. The specific p38γ pharmacological inhibitor pirfenidone also suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and colon tumorigenesis. The tumor-promoting activity of epithelial p38γ was further demonstrated by xenograft studies. In addition, p38γ is required for β-catenin/Wnt activities and p38γ stimulates Wnt transcription by phosphorylating β-catenin at Ser605. These results show that p38γ activation links inflammation and colon tumorigenesis. Targeting p38γ may be a novel strategy for colon cancer prevention and treatment.

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