Because P188 poloxamer is effective in promoting cell survival in models of acute trauma, the objectives were to understand the mechanism of its action focusing on glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) activation, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and p38 signaling.
Sixteen normal human tali were impacted using a 4-mm diameter indenter with an impulse of 1 Ns. Eight-millimeter cartilage plugs containing the 4-mm impacted core and 4-mm adjacent nonimpacted ring were removed and cultured with or without P188. Cell lysates were analyzed using Western blots with antibodies against total and phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK), c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK), p38, ATF-2, GSK3, Stat1, and Stat3. Additional tests were performed with the p38 inhibitor (p38i) SB203580.
Studied pathways were activated after impaction with the peak of activity at 1 hour. P188 completely attenuated phosphorylation of Stat1 and ATF-2 and inhibited p38, Stat3, JNK, ERK, and GSK3. The p38i partially offset phosphorylation of Stat3, GSK3, and ERK suggesting a role of p38 in these three pathways. Additionally, the p38i improved cell survival (P = 0.053) and reduced apoptosis (by approximately 20%, P = 0.046, versus almost 40% by P188), thus confirming that P188 acts (at least in part) through the p38 pathway.
Our results report a novel mechanism through which P188 exerts its protective effects on cartilage in the model of acute injury. In addition to its effect on cellular membrane, P188 affects stress-related p38 signaling, apoptosis-related GSK3, and inflammation-related IL-6 signaling. Taken together, these findings suggest that P188 alone or in combination with proanabolic agents may have a therapeutic potential in preventing progressive cartilage degeneration and the development of posttraumatic osteoarthritis.