IL-13 dysregulation plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of a variety of inflammatory and remodeling diseases. In these settings, STAT6 is believed to be the canonical signaling molecule mediating the tissue effects of IL-13. Signaling cascades involving MAPKs have been linked to inflammation and remodeling. We hypothesized that MAPKs play critical roles in effector responses induced by IL-13 in the lung. We found that Tg IL-13 expression in the lung led to potent activation of ERK1/2 but not JNK1/2 or p38. ERK1/2 activation also occurred in mice with null mutations of STAT6. Systemic administration of the MAPK/ERK kinase 1 (MEK1) inhibitor PD98059 or use of Tg mice in which a dominant-negative MEK1 construct was expressed inhibited IL-13-induced inflammation and alveolar remodeling. There were associated decreases in IL-13-induced chemokines (MIP-1α/CCL-3, MIP-1β/CCL-4, MIP-2/CXCL-1, RANTES/CCL-5), MMP-2, -9, -12, and -14, and cathepsin B and increased levels of α1-antitrypsin. IL-13-induced tissue and molecular responses were noted that were equally and differentially dependent on ERK1/2 and STAT6 signaling. Thus, ERK1/2 is activated by IL-13 in the lung in a STAT6-independent manner where it contributes to IL-13-induced inflammation and remodeling and is required for optimal IL-13 stimulation of specific chemokines and proteases as well as the inhibition of specific antiproteases. ERK1/2 regulators may be useful in the treatment of IL-13-induced diseases and disorders.
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