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BACKGROUND: The ion pump Na+,K(+)-ATPase is responsible for the secretion of cerebrospinal fluid from the choroid plexus. In this tissue, the activity of Na+,K(+)-ATPase is inhibited by serotonin via stimulation of protein kinase C-catalyzed phosphorylation. The choroid plexus is highly enriched in two phosphoproteins which act as regulators of protein phosphatase-1 activity, DARPP-32 and inhibitor-1. Phosphorylation catalyzed by cAMP-dependent protein kinase on a single threonyl residue converts DARPP-32 and inhibitor-1 into potent inhibitors of protein phosphatase-1. Previous work has shown that in the choroid plexus, phosphorylation of DARPP-32 and I-1 is enhanced by isoproterenol and other agents that activate cAMP-PK. We have now examined the possible involvement of the cAMP-PK/protein phosphatase-1 pathway in the regulation of Na+,K(+)-ATPase. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The state of phosphorylation of Na+,K(+)-ATPase was measured by determining the amount of radioactivity incorporated into the ion pump following immunoprecipitation from 32P-prelabeled choroid plexuses incubated with various drugs (see below). Two-dimensional phosphopeptide mapping was employed to identify the protein kinase involved in the phosphorylation of Na+,K(+)-ATPase. RESULTS: The serotonin-mediated increase in Na+,K(+)-ATPase phosphorylation is potentiated by okadaic acid, an inhibitor of protein phosphatases-1 and -2A, as well as by forskolin or the beta-adrenergic agonist, isoproterenol, activators of cAMP-dependent protein kinase. Two-dimensional phosphopeptide maps suggest that this potentiating action occurs at the level of a protein kinase C phosphorylation site. Forskolin and isoproterenol also stimulate the phosphorylation of DARPP-32 and protein phosphatase inhibitor-1, which in their phosphorylated form are potent inhibitors of protein phosphatase-1. CONCLUSIONS: The results presented here support a model in which okadaic acid, forskolin, and isoproterenol achieve their synergistic effects with serotonin through phosphorylation of DARPP-32 and inhibitor-1, inhibition of protein phosphatase-1, and a reduction of dephosphorylation of Na+,K(+)-ATPase at a protein kinase C phosphorylation site.