A peptide inhibitor of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase reduces myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury and infarct size in vivo

Giuseppina Milano, Sandrine Morel, Christophe Bonny, Michele Samaja, Ludwig K. Von Segesser, Pascal Nicod, Giuseppe Vassalli

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The c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascade regulates cell function and survival after stress stimulation. Equally robust studies reported dichotomous results suggesting both protective and detrimental effects of JNK during myocardial ischemia-reperfusion (I/R). The lack of a highly specific JNK inhibitor contributed to this controversy. We recently developed a cell-penetrating, protease-resistant peptide inhibitor of JNK, D-JNKI-1. Here we report on the effects of D-JNKI-1 in myocardial I/R. D-JNKI-1 was tested in isolated-perfused adult rat hearts. Increased activation of JNK, p38-MAPK, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 (ERK1/2), as assessed by kinase assays and Western blotting, occurred during I/R. D-JNKI-1 delivered before onset of ischemia prevented the increase in JNK activity while not affecting ERK1/2 and p38-MAPK activation. JNK inhibition reduced ischemic injury, as manifested by increased time to contracture (P <0.05) and decreased left ventricular end-diastolic pressure during ischemia (P <0.01), and enhanced posthypoxic recovery of systolic and diastolic function (P <0.01). D-JNKI-1 reduced mitochondrial cytochrome-c release, caspase-3 activation, and the number of apoptotic cells determined by terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (P <0.05), indicating suppression of the mitochondrial machinery of apoptosis. D-JNKI-1 delivered at the time of reperfusion did not improve functional recovery but still prevented apoptosis. In vivo, D-JNKI-1 reduced infarct size after coronary artery occlusion and reperfusion by ∼50% (P <0.01). In conclusion, D-JNKI-1 is an important compound that can be used in preclinical models to investigate the role of JNK signaling in vivo. Inhibition of JNK during I/R is cardioprotective in anesthetized rats in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


  • Apoptosis
  • Mitogen-activated protein kinases
  • Myocardium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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