c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) typically respond strongly to stress, are implicated in brain development, and are believed to mediate neuronal apoptosis. Surprisingly, however, JNK does not respond characteristically to stress in cultured cerebellar granule (CBG) neurons, a widely exploited CNS model for studies of death and development, despite the regulation of its substrate c-Jun. To understand this anomaly, we characterized JNK regulation in CBG neurons. We find that the specific activity of CBG JNK is elevated considerably above that from neuron-like cell lines (SH-SY5Y, PC12); however, similar elevated activities are found in brain extracts. This activity does not result from cellular stress because the stress-activated protein kinase p38 is not activated. We identify a minor stress-sensitive pool of JNK that translocates with mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase-4 (MKK4) into the nucleus. However, the major pool of total activit
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