Cytokines and various cellular stresses are known to activate c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), which plays a role in conveying signals from the cytosol to the nucleus. Here we investigate the translocation and activation of JNK1 during ischemia and reperfusion in perfused rat heart. Ischemia induces the translocation of JNK1 from the cytosol fraction to the nuclear fraction in a time-dependent manner. Immunohistochemical observation also shows that JNK1 staining in the nucleus is enhanced after ischemia. During reperfusion after ischemia, further nuclear translocation of JNK1 is apparently inhibited. In contrast, JNK1 activity in the nuclear fraction does not increased during ischemia but increases significantly during reperfusion with a peak at 10 min of reperfusion. The activation of JNK1 is confirmed by the phosphorylation of endogenous c-Jun (Ser-73) with similar kinetics. The level of c-jun mRNA also increases during reperfusion but not during ischemia. Based on fractionation and immunohistochemical analyses, an upstream kinase for JNK1, SAPK/ERK kinase 1 (SEK1), is constantly present in both the nucleus and cytoplasm throughout ischemia and reperfusion, whereas an upstream kinase for mitogen-activated protein kinase, MAPK/ERK kinase 1, remains in the cytosol. Furthermore, phosphorylation at Thr-223 of SEK1, necessary for its activation, rapidly increases in the nuclear fraction during postischemic reperfusion. These findings demonstrate that JNK1 translocates to the nucleus during ischemia without activation and is then activated during reperfusion, probably by SEK1 in the nucleus.
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