Tumor progression locus-2 (TPL2, also known as COT and MAP3K8) functions as a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase kinase (MAP3K) in various stress-responsive signaling cascades. MAP3K8 (TPL2) mediates phosphorylation of MAP2Ks (MEK1/2) which in turn phosphorylate MAPK (ERK1/2) (Gantke T et al., 2011).
In the absence of extra-cellular signals, cytosolic MAP3K8 (TPL2) is held inactive in the complex with ABIN2 (TNIP2) and NFkB p105 (NFKB1) (Beinke S et al., 2003; Waterfield MR et al., 2003; Lang V et al., 2004). This interaction stabilizes MAP3K8 (TPL2) but also prevents MAP3K8 and NFkB from activating their downstream signaling cascades by inhibiting the kinase activity of MAP3K8 and the proteolysis of NFkB precursor protein p105. Upon activation of MAP3K8 by various stimuli (such as LPS, TNF-alpha, and IL-1 beta), IKBKB phosphorylates NFkB p105 (NFKB1) at Ser927 and Ser932, which trigger p105 proteasomal degradation and releases MAP3K8 from the complex (Beinke S et al., 2003, 2004; Roget K et al., 2012). Simultaneously, MAP3K8 is activated by auto- and/or transphosphorylation (Gantke T et al. 2011; Yang HT et al. 2012). The released active MAP3K8 phosphorylates its substrates, MAP2Ks. The free MAP3K8, however, is also unstable and is targeted for proteasome-mediated degradation, thus restricting prolonged activation of MAP3K8 (TPL2) and its downstream signaling pathways (Waterfield MR et al. 2003; Cho J et al., 2005). Furthermore, partially degraded NFkB p105 (NFKB1) into p50 can dimerize with other NFkB family members to regulate the transcription of target genes.
MAP3K8 activity is thought to regulate the dynamics of transcription factors that control an expression of diverse genes involved in growth, differentiation, and inflammation. Suppressing the MAP3K8 kinase activity with selective inhibitors, such as C8-chloronaphthyridine-3-carbonitrile, caused a significant reduction in TNFalpha production in LPS- and IL-1beta-induced both primary human monocytes and human blood (Hall JP et al. 2007). Similar results have been reported for mouse LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 cells (Hirata K et al. 2010). Moreover, LPS-stimulated macrophages derived from Map3k8 knockout mice secreted lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNFalpha, Cox2, Pge2 and CXCL1 (Dumitru CD et al. 2000; Eliopoulos AG et al. 2002). Additionally, bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) and macrophages from Map3k8 knockout mice showed significantly lower expression of IL-1beta in response to LPS, poly IC and LPS/MDP (Mielke et al., 2009). However, several other studies seem to contradict these findings and Map3k8 deficiency in mice has been also reported to enhance pro-inflammatory profiles. Map3k8 deficiency in LPS-stimulated macrophages was associated with an increase in nitric oxide synthase 2 (NOS2) expression (López-Peláez et al., 2011). Similarly, expression of IRAK-M, whose function is to compete with IL-1R-associated kinase (IRAK) family of kinases, was decreased in Map3k8-/- macrophages while levels of TNF and IL6 were elevated (Zacharioudaki et al., 2009). Moreover, significantly higher inflammation level was observed in 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-treated Map3k8-/- mouse skin compared to WT skin (DeCicco-Skinner K. et al., 2011). Additionally, MAP3K8 activity is associated with NFkB inflammatory pathway. High levels of active p65 NFkB were observed in the nucleus of Map3k8 -/- mouse keratinocytes that dramatically increased within 15-30 minutes of TPA treatment. Similarly, increased p65 NFkB was observed in Map3k8-deficient BMDC both basally and after stimulation with LPS when compared to wild type controls (Mielke et al., 2009). The data opposes the findings that Map3k8-deficient mouse embryo fibroblasts and human Jurkat T cells with kinase domain-deficient protein have a reduction in NFkB activation but only when certain stimuli are administered (Lin et al., 1999; Das S et al., 2005). Thus, it is possible that whether MAP3K8 serves more of a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory role may depend on cell- or tissue type and on stimuli (LPS vs. TPA, etc.) (Mielke et al., 2009; DeCicco-Skinner K. et al., 2012).
MAP3K8 has been also studied in the context of carcinogenesis, however the physiological role of MAP3K8 in the etiology of human cancers is also convoluted (Vougioukalaki M et al., 2011; DeCicco-Skinner K. et al., 2012).