MKK3, an upstream activator of p38, contributes to formalin phase 2 and late allodynia in mice

L. S. Sorkin, D. L. Boyle, D. Hammaker, D. S. Herman, E. Vail, G. S. Firestein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Spinal p38 mitogen activated (MAP) kinase plays a key role in chronic pain behavior. However, clinical development of p38 inhibitors has been hindered by significant toxicity. To evaluate alternative strategies of p38 regulation, we determined if known upstream activators of p38 (mitogen activated kinase kinase [MKK] 3 and MKK6), are involved in development and maintenance of pain and spinal p38 phosphorylation. Acute pain behaviors were not altered in MKK3 or MKK6 deficient mice. The phase 2 formalin response was delayed in MKK3-/- mice, but unchanged in magnitude, while the response remained normal in MKK6-/- mice. More striking, late formalin allodynia (3-18 days post-injection) was prominent in wild type and MKK6-/- mice, but was delayed for several days in MKK3-/- mice. In wild type, but not MKK3-/- mice, intraplantar formalin elicited increases in ipsilateral spinal MKK3/6 phosphorylation acutely and again at 9 days postinjection. Phosphorylation of MKK3/6 correlated with phase 2 formalin behavior. Wild type (WT) and MKK3-/- mice both expressed increases in spinal phosphorylated p38, however in WT mice this response began several days earlier, and was of higher magnitude and duration than in MKK3-/- mice. This phosphorylation correlated with the late allodynia. Phosphorylated MKK3/6 was detected only in astrocytes, given that phosphorylated p38 (P-p38) is usually not seen in astrocytes this argues for astrocytic release of soluble mediators that affect p38 phosphorylation in microglia. Taking these data together, MKK3, but not MKK6, is necessary for normal development of chronic pain behavior and phosphorylation of spinal p38.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-471
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 18 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • MKK6
  • inflammation
  • neuropathic pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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