Activation of stress-responsive pathways by the sympathetic nervous system in burn trauma

Cherry Ballard-Croft, David L. Maass, Patricia Sikes, Jean White, Jureta Horton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


We have shown previously that burn trauma activates the stress responsive proteins, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), c-jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), and NF-κB, and we have shown further that p38 MAPK is an important mediator of cardiomyocyte TNF-a secretion and cardiac dysfunction in burn trauma. Since burn trauma causes a rise in circulating catecholamine levels, we hypothesized that this increased sympathetic activity may function as an upstream activator of the p38 MARK pathway in burn trauma. This study determined whether the α1-adrenergic receptor ligand phenylephrine could mimic burn trauma activation of p38 MAPK, JNK, and NF-κB nuclear translocation; and the effect of the α1-adrenergic receptor antagonist prazosin on either phenylephrine or burn-mediated activation of the stress response pathway was examined. Sprague Dawley rats were divided into seven groups: Group 1, controls; Group 2, phenylephrine-treated (2 μg/kg, i.v.) control rats; Group 3, phenylephrine-treated plus prazosin-treated (1 mg/kg, i.v.) control rats; additional rats were given burn over 40% total body surface area (TBSA) and received vehicle (1 mL of 2% sucrose, PO) plus fluid resuscitation (Group 4), while in Group 5, burn rats were given prazosin (1 mg/kg, PO) plus fluid resuscitation. In Groups 6 and 7, sham-burned rats were given either vehicle (1 mL of 2% sucrose, PO) or prazosin (1 mg/kg, PO) to provide appropriate controls. Administration of phenylephrine to rats caused a significant activation of cardiac p38 MAPK/JNK activities (Western blot) and cardiac NF-κB nuclear translocation (electrophoretic mobility shift assay, EMSA). Prazosin blocked phenylephrine mediated changes in p38 MAPK/JNK activities. Burn trauma activated cardiac p38 MAPK/JNK and NF-κB, increased TNF-α secretion by cardiomyocytes, and impaired cardiac function. Prazosin treatment in burns interrupted the burn-mediated signaling cascade, decreasing TNF-α secretion by cardiomyocytes and preventing post-burn cardiac contractile dysfunction. Thus, burn trauma-related sympathetic activity likely activates the stress-responsive cascade, which regulates myocardial TNF-α transcription/translation and culminates in cardiac contraction and relaxation defects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2002


  • Autonomic nervous system activation in burns
  • Cardiac NF-κB activation
  • Cardiac p38 MAPK/JNK
  • Rat model of thermal injury
  • Signaling pathways in heart
  • α-Adrenergic receptors in heart

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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