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1.  Biochemical characterization and cellular imaging of a novel, membrane permeable fluorescent cAMP analog 
BMC Biochemistry  2008;9:18.
A novel fluorescent cAMP analog (8-[Pharos-575]- adenosine-3', 5'-cyclic monophosphate) was characterized with respect to its spectral properties, its ability to bind to and activate three main isoenzymes of the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA-Iα, PKA-IIα, PKA-IIβ) in vitro, its stability towards phosphodiesterase and its ability to permeate into cultured eukaryotic cells using resonance energy transfer based indicators, and conventional fluorescence imaging.
The Pharos fluorophore is characterized by a Stokes shift of 42 nm with an absorption maximum at 575 nm and the emission peaking at 617 nm. The quantum yield is 30%. Incubation of the compound to RIIα and RIIβ subunits increases the amplitude of excitation and absorption maxima significantly; no major change was observed with RIα. In vitro binding of the compound to RIα subunit and activation of the PKA-Iα holoenzyme was essentially equivalent to cAMP; RII subunits bound the fluorescent analog up to ten times less efficiently, resulting in about two times reduced apparent activation constants of the holoenzymes compared to cAMP. The cellular uptake of the fluorescent analog was investigated by cAMP indicators. It was estimated that about 7 μM of the fluorescent cAMP analog is available to the indicator after one hour of incubation and that about 600 μM of the compound had to be added to intact cells to half-maximally dissociate a PKA type IIα sensor.
The novel analog combines good membrane permeability- comparable to 8-Br-cAMP – with superior spectral properties of a modern, red-shifted fluorophore. GFP-tagged regulatory subunits of PKA and the analog co-localized. Furthermore, it is a potent, PDE-resistant activator of PKA-I and -II, suitable for in vitro applications and spatial distribution evaluations in living cells.
PMCID: PMC2443153  PMID: 18578870
2.  8-Chloro-Cyclic AMP and Protein Kinase A I-Selective Cyclic AMP Analogs Inhibit Cancer Cell Growth through Different Mechanisms 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20785.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) inhibits the proliferation of several tumor cells. We previously reported an antiproliferative effect of PKA I-selective cAMP analogs (8-PIP-cAMP and 8-HA-cAMP) on two human cancer cell lines of different origin. 8-Cl-cAMP, another cAMP analog with known antiproliferative properties, has been investigated as a potential anticancer drug. Here, we compared the antiproliferative effect of 8-Cl-cAMP and the PKA I-selective cAMP analogs in three human cancer cell lines (ARO, NPA and WRO). 8-Cl-cAMP and the PKA I-selective cAMP analogs had similarly potent antiproliferative effects on the BRAF-positive ARO and NPA cells, but not on the BRAF-negative WRO cells, in which only 8-Cl-cAMP consistently inhibited cell growth. While treatment with the PKA I-selective cAMP analogs was associated with growth arrest, 8-Cl-cAMP induced apoptosis. To further investigate the actions of 8-Cl-cAMP and the PKA I-selective cAMP analogs, we analyzed their effects on signaling pathways involved in cell proliferation and apoptosis. Interestingly, the PKA I-selective cAMP analogs, but not 8-Cl-cAMP, inhibited ERK phosphorylation, whereas 8-Cl-cAMP alone induced a progressive phosphorylation of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), via activation of AMPK by its metabolite 8-Cl-adenosine. Importantly, the pro-apoptotic effect of 8-Cl-cAMP could be largely prevented by pharmacological inhibition of the p38 MAPK. Altogether, these data suggest that 8-Cl-cAMP and the PKA I-selective cAMP analogs, though of comparable antiproliferative potency, act through different mechanisms. PKA I-selective cAMP analogs induce growth arrest in cells carrying the BRAF oncogene, whereas 8-Cl-cAMP induce apoptosis, apparently through activation of the p38 MAPK pathway.
PMCID: PMC3112188  PMID: 21695205
3.  Rap1-Mediated Activation of Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinases by Cyclic AMP Is Dependent on the Mode of Rap1 Activation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(6):2130-2145.
Like other small G proteins of the Ras superfamily, Rap1 is activated by distinct guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) in response to different signals to elicit cellular responses. Activation of Rap1 by cyclic AMP (cAMP) can occur via cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA)-independent and PKA-dependent mechanisms. PKA-independent activation of Rap1 by cAMP is mediated by direct binding of cAMP to Rap1-guanine nucleotide exchange factors (Rap1-GEFs) Epac1 (exchange protein directly activated by cAMP 1) and Epac2 (Epac1 and Epac2 are also called cAMP-GEFI and -GEFII). The availability of cAMP analogues that selectively activate Epacs, but not PKA, provides a specific tool to activate Rap1. It has been argued that the inability of these analogues to regulate extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) signaling despite activating Rap1 provides evidence that Rap1 is incapable of regulating ERKs. We confirm that the PKA-independent activation of Rap1 by Epac1 activates a perinuclear pool of Rap1 and that this does not result in ERK activation. However, we demonstrate that this inability to regulate ERKs is not a property of Rap1 but is rather a property of Epacs themselves. The addition of a membrane-targeting motif to Epac1 (Epac-CAAX) relocalizes Epac1 from its normal perinuclear locale to the plasma membrane. In this new locale it is capable of activating ERKs in a Rap1- and cAMP-dependent manner. Rap1 activation by Epac-CAAX, but not wild-type Epac, triggers its association with B-Raf. Therefore, we propose that its intracellular localization prevents Epac1 from activating ERKs. C3G (Crk SH3 domain Guanine nucleotide exchanger) is a Rap1 exchanger that is targeted to the plasma membrane upon activation. We show that C3G can be localized to the plasma membrane by cAMP/PKA, as can Rap1 when activated by cAMP/PKA. Using a small interfering RNA approach, we demonstrate that C3G is required for the activation of ERKs and Rap1 by cAMP/PKA. This activation requires the GTP-dependent association of Rap1 with B-Raf. These data demonstrate that B-Raf is a physiological target of Rap1, but its utilization as a Rap1 effector is GEF specific. We propose a model that specific GEFs activate distinct pools of Rap1 that are differentially coupled to downstream effectors.
PMCID: PMC1430276  PMID: 16507992
4.  Single Turnover Autophosphorylation Cycle of the PKA RIIβ Holoenzyme 
PLoS Biology  2015;13(7):e1002192.
To provide tight spatiotemporal signaling control, the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-dependent protein kinase (PKA) holoenzyme typically nucleates a macromolecular complex or a “PKA signalosome.” Using the RIIβ holoenzyme as a prototype, we show how autophosphorylation/dephosphorylation of the RIIβ subunit, as well as cAMP and metal ions, contribute to the dynamics of PKA signaling. While we showed previously that the RIIβ holoenzyme could undergo a single turnover autophosphorylation with adenosine triphosphate and magnesium (MgATP) and trap both products in the crystal lattice, we asked here whether calcium could trap an ATP:RIIβ holoenzyme since the RIIβ holoenzyme is located close to ion channels. The 2.8Å structure of an RIIβp2:C2:(Ca2ADP)2 holoenzyme, supported by biochemical and biophysical data, reveals a trapped single phosphorylation event similar to MgATP. Thus, calcium can mediate a single turnover event with either ATP or adenosine-5'-(β,γ-imido)triphosphate (AMP-PNP), even though it cannot support steady-state catalysis efficiently. The holoenzyme serves as a “product trap” because of the slow off-rate of the pRIIβ subunit, which is controlled by cAMP, not by phosphorylation of the inhibitor site. By quantitatively defining the RIIβ signaling cycle, we show that release of pRIIβ in the presence of cAMP is reduced by calcium, whereas autophosphorylation at the phosphorylation site (P-site) inhibits holoenzyme reassociation with the catalytic subunit. Adding a single phosphoryl group to the preformed RIIβ holoenzyme thus creates a signaling cycle in which phosphatases become an essential partner. This previously unappreciated molecular mechanism is an integral part of PKA signaling for type II holoenzymes.
The dissociation of inhibitory subunits from the prototypical cAMP-dependent protein kinase PKA is sensitive to calcium, raising the possibility that PKA's close association with calcium channels may represent a new link between calcium and cAMP signaling pathways.
Author Summary
Kinases are important regulators in many cellular signaling processes. They bind to and phosphorylate different substrates to affect distinct signaling events. Usually, a kinase releases its substrate quickly after phosphorylation to ensure fast signaling. However, we find that this is not always true for the prototypical cAMP-dependent protein kinase PKA. PKA activity is inhibited by binding regulatory subunits, some of which are themselves PKA substrates. We show that type II regulatory subunits, such as RIIβ, are phosphorylated but do not release the kinase. These holoenzyme complexes consisting of PKA catalytic subunits and type II regulatory subunits are product traps. cAMP can bind this holoenzyme, facilitating the dissociation of the complex and unleashing PKA activity. We show that this dissociation event is modulatable by different divalent metal ions (magnesium and calcium). Since PKA is tethered to and regulates calcium channels, we propose a new link between cAMP and calcium signaling pathways—two of the major signaling molecules in the cell. We also found that this inhibitory phosphorylation event impacts the reassociation of PKA complexes. Thus, for fast and tight regulation of PKA, other signaling enzymes, such as phosphatases, are needed to remove this modification.
PMCID: PMC4497662  PMID: 26158466
5.  Epac-Selective cAMP Analogs: New Tools With Which To Evaluate The Signal Transduction Properties Of cAMP-Regulated Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors 
Cellular signalling  2007;20(1):10-20.
The identification of 2′-O-methyl substituted adenosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) analogs that activate the Epac family of cAMP-regulated guanine nucleotide exchange factors (cAMP-GEFs, also known as Epac1 and Epac2), has ushered in a new era of cyclic nucleotide research in which previously unrecognized signalling properties of the second messenger cAMP have been revealed. These Epac-Selective Cyclic AMP Analogs (ESCAs) incorporate a 2′-O-methyl substitution on the ribose ring of cAMP, a modification that impairs their ability to activate protein kinase A (PKA), while leaving intact their ability to activate Epac (the Exchange Protein directly Activated by Cyclic AMP). One such ESCA in wide-spread use is 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP. It is a cell-permeant derivative of 2′-O-Me-cAMP, and it is a super activator of Epac. A wealth of newly published studies demonstrate that 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP is a unique tool with which to asses atypical actions of cAMP that are PKA-independent. Particularly intriguing are recent reports demonstrating that ESCAs reproduce the PKA-independent actions of ligands known to stimulate Class I (Family A) and Class II (Family B) GTP-binding protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). This topical review summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding the molecular pharmacology and signal transduction properties of Epac-selective cAMP analogs. Special attention is focused on the rational drug design of ESCAs in order to improve their Epac selectivity, membrane permeability, and stability. Also emphasized is the usefulness of ESCAs as new tools with which to assess the role of Epac as a determinant of intracellular Ca2+ signalling, ion channel function, neurotransmitter release, and hormone secretion.
PMCID: PMC2215344  PMID: 17716863
cAMP; Epac; PKA; rational drug design
6.  “cAMP Sponge”: A Buffer for Cyclic Adenosine 3′, 5′-Monophosphate 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7649.
While intracellular buffers are widely used to study calcium signaling, no such tool exists for the other major second messenger, cyclic AMP (cAMP).
Methods/Principal Findings
Here we describe a genetically encoded buffer for cAMP based on the high-affinity cAMP-binding carboxy-terminus of the regulatory subunit RIβ of protein kinase A (PKA). Addition of targeting sequences permitted localization of this fragment to the extra-nuclear compartment, while tagging with mCherry allowed quantification of its expression at the single cell level. This construct (named “cAMP sponge”) was shown to selectively bind cAMP in vitro. Its expression significantly suppressed agonist-induced cAMP signals and the downstream activation of PKA within the cytosol as measured by FRET-based sensors in single living cells. Point mutations in the cAMP-binding domains of the construct rendered the chimera unable to bind cAMP in vitro or in situ. Cyclic AMP sponge was fruitfully applied to examine feedback regulation of gap junction-mediated transfer of cAMP in epithelial cell couplets.
This newest member of the cAMP toolbox has the potential to reveal unique biological functions of cAMP, including insight into the functional significance of compartmentalized signaling events.
PMCID: PMC2766031  PMID: 19888343
7.  Implementing Fluorescence Anisotropy Screening and Crystallographic Analysis to Define PKA Isoform-Selective Activation by cAMP Analogs 
ACS chemical biology  2013;8(10):10.1021/cb400247t.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is a ubiquitous second messenger that regulates many proteins, most notably cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). PKA holoenzymes (comprised of two catalytic (C) and two regulatory (R) subunits) regulate a wide variety of cellular processes, and its functional diversity is amplified by the presence of four R-subunit isoforms, RIα, RIβ, RIIα, and RIIβ. Although these isoforms all respond to cAMP, they are functionally non-redundant and exhibit different biochemical properties. In order to understand the functional differences between these isoforms, we screened cAMP derivatives for their ability to selectively activate RI and RII PKA holoenzymes using a fluorescence anisotropy assay. Our results indicate that RIα holoenzymes are selectively activated by C8-substituted analogs and RIIβ holoenzymes by N6-substituted analogs, where HE33 is the most prominent RII activator. We also solved the crystal structures of both RIα and RIIβ bound to HE33. The RIIβ structure shows the bulky aliphatic substituent of HE33 is fully encompassed by a pocket comprising of hydrophobic residues. RIα lacks this hydrophobic lining in Domain A and the side chains are displaced to accommodate the HE33 di-propyl groups. Comparison between cAMP-bound structures reveals that RIIβ, but not RIα, contains a cavity near the N6 site. This study suggests that the selective activation of RII over RI isoforms by N6 analogs is driven by the spatial and chemical constraints of Domain A and paves the way for the development of potent non-cyclic nucleotides activators to specifically target PKA iso-holoenyzmes.
PMCID: PMC3827627  PMID: 23978166
cAMP-dependent protein kinase; cyclic nucleotide analogs; isoform selectivity; fluorescence anisotropy; x-ray crystallography
8.  PKA and Epac cooperate to augment bradykinin-induced interleukin-8 release from human airway smooth muscle cells 
Respiratory Research  2009;10(1):88.
Airway smooth muscle contributes to the pathogenesis of pulmonary diseases by secreting inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-8 (IL-8). IL-8 production is in part regulated via activation of Gq-and Gs-coupled receptors. Here we study the role of the cyclic AMP (cAMP) effectors protein kinase A (PKA) and exchange proteins directly activated by cAMP (Epac1 and Epac2) in the bradykinin-induced IL-8 release from a human airway smooth muscle cell line and the underlying molecular mechanisms of this response.
IL-8 release was assessed via ELISA under basal condition and after stimulation with bradykinin alone or in combination with fenoterol, the Epac activators 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP and Sp-8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMPS, the PKA activator 6-Bnz-cAMP and the cGMP analog 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cGMP. Where indicated, cells were pre-incubated with the pharmacological inhibitors Clostridium difficile toxin B-1470 (GTPases), U0126 (extracellular signal-regulated kinases ERK1/2) and Rp-8-CPT-cAMPS (PKA). The specificity of the cyclic nucleotide analogs was confirmed by measuring phosphorylation of the PKA substrate vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein. GTP-loading of Rap1 and Rap2 was evaluated via pull-down technique. Expression of Rap1, Rap2, Epac1 and Epac2 was assessed via western blot. Downregulation of Epac protein expression was achieved by siRNA. Unpaired or paired two-tailed Student's t test was used.
The β2-agonist fenoterol augmented release of IL-8 by bradykinin. The PKA activator 6-Bnz-cAMP and the Epac activator 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP significantly increased bradykinin-induced IL-8 release. The hydrolysis-resistant Epac activator Sp-8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMPS mimicked the effects of 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP, whereas the negative control 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cGMP did not. Fenoterol, forskolin and 6-Bnz-cAMP induced VASP phosphorylation, which was diminished by the PKA inhibitor Rp-8-CPT-cAMPS. 6-Bnz-cAMP and 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP induced GTP-loading of Rap1, but not of Rap2. Treatment of the cells with toxin B-1470 and U0126 significantly reduced bradykinin-induced IL-8 release alone or in combination with the activators of PKA and Epac. Interestingly, inhibition of PKA by Rp-8-CPT-cAMPS and silencing of Epac1 and Epac2 expression by specific siRNAs largely decreased activation of Rap1 and the augmentation of bradykinin-induced IL-8 release by both PKA and Epac.
Collectively, our data suggest that PKA, Epac1 and Epac2 act in concert to modulate inflammatory properties of airway smooth muscle via signaling to the Ras-like GTPase Rap1 and to ERK1/2.
PMCID: PMC2764632  PMID: 19788733
9.  Structure-Guided Design of Selective Epac1 and Epac2 Agonists 
PLoS Biology  2015;13(1):e1002038.
The second messenger cAMP is known to augment glucose-induced insulin secretion. However, its downstream targets in pancreatic β-cells have not been unequivocally determined. Therefore, we designed cAMP analogues by a structure-guided approach that act as Epac2-selective agonists both in vitro and in vivo. These analogues activate Epac2 about two orders of magnitude more potently than cAMP. The high potency arises from increased affinity as well as increased maximal activation. Crystallographic studies demonstrate that this is due to unique interactions. At least one of the Epac2-specific agonists, Sp-8-BnT-cAMPS (S-220), enhances glucose-induced insulin secretion in human pancreatic cells. Selective targeting of Epac2 is thus proven possible and may be an option in diabetes treatment.
Author Summary
cAMP is a small molecule produced by cells that activates proteins involved in a wide range of biological processes, including olfaction, pacemaker activity, regulation of gene expression, insulin secretion, and many others. In the case of insulin secretion, cAMP seems to impinge on different stages of the signalling cascade to regulate secretory activity in pancreatic β-cells. Here we have developed a chemically modified version of cAMP that specifically only activates Epac2, one of the cAMP-responsive proteins in this cascade. Furthermore, our cAMP analogue activates Epac2 more potently than cAMP itself does. We have determined several crystal structures of Epac2 in complex with cAMP analogues to help us explain the molecular basis of the observed selectivity and the strong activation potential. In addition, we were able to show that the analogue is able to potentiate glucose-induced secretion of insulin from human pancreatic islets. The principal challenge during this study was identifying and understanding small differences in the cAMP-binding domains of cAMP-regulated proteins and matching these differences with suitable modifications of the cAMP molecule.
A newly developed analogue of cAMP that selectively activates Epac2 can potentiate glucose-induced insulin secretion from human pancreatic β-cells.
PMCID: PMC4300089  PMID: 25603503
10.  Adrenocorticotropic hormone and cAMP inhibit noninactivating K+ current in adrenocortical cells by an A-kinase-independent mechanism requiring ATP hydrolysis 
The Journal of General Physiology  1996;108(4):251-264.
Bovine adrenal zona fasciculata (AZF) cells express a noninactivating K+ current (IAC) that is inhibited by adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) at picomolar concentrations. Inhibition of IAC may be a critical step in depolarization-dependent Ca2+ entry leading to cortisol secretion. In whole-cell patch clamp recordings from AZF cells, we have characterized properties of IAC and the signalling pathway by which ACTH inhibits this current. IAC was identified as a voltage-gated, outwardly rectifying, K(+)-selective current whose inhibition by ACTH required activation of a pertussis toxin-insensitive GTP binding protein. IAC was selectively inhibited by the cAMP analogue 8-(4- chlorophenylthio)-adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (8-pcpt-cAMP) with an IC50 of 160 microM. The adenylate cyclase activator forskolin (2.5 microM) also reduced IAC by 92 +/- 4.7%. Inhibition of IAC by ACTH, 8-pcpt-cAMP and forskolin was not prevented by the cAMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitors H-89 (5 microM), cAMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitor peptide (PKI[5-24]) (2 microM), (Rp)-cAMPS (500 microM), or by the nonspecific protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine (100 nM) applied externally or intracellularly through the patch pipette. At the same concentrations, these kinase inhibitors abolished 8-pcpt-cAMP-stimulated A-kinase activity in AZF cell extracts. In intact AZF cells, 8-pcpt-cAMP activated A-kinase with an EC50 of 77 nM, a concentration 2,000-fold lower than that inhibiting IAC half maximally. The active catalytic subunit of A-kinase applied intracellularly through the recording pipette failed to alter functional expression of IAC. The inhibition of IAC by ACTH and 8-pcpt- cAMP was eliminated by substituting the nonhydrolyzable ATP analogue AMP-PNP for ATP in the pipette solution. Penfluridol, an antagonist of T-type Ca2+ channels inhibited 8-pcpt-cAMP-induced cortisol secretion with an IC50 of 0.33 microM, a concentration that effectively blocks Ca2+ channel in these cells. These results demonstrate that IAC is a K(+)-selective current whose gating is controlled by an unusual combination of metabolic factors and membrane voltage. IAC may be the first example of an ionic current that is inhibited by cAMP through an A-kinase-independent mechanism. The A-kinase-independent inhibition of IAC by ACTH and cAMP through a mechanism requiring ATP hydrolysis appears to be a unique form of channel modulation. These findings suggest a model for cortisol secretion wherein cAMP combines with two separate effectors to activate parallel steroidogenic signalling pathways. These include the traditional A-kinase-dependent signalling cascade and a novel pathway wherein cAMP binding to IAC K+ channels leads to membrane depolarization and Ca2+ entry. The simultaneous activation of A-kinase- and Ca(2+)-dependent pathways produces the full steroidogenic response.
PMCID: PMC2229326  PMID: 8894975
11.  Ligand Responses of Vfr, the Virulence Factor Regulator from Pseudomonas aeruginosa▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(18):4859-4868.
Vfr, a transcription factor homologous to the Escherichia coli cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein (CRP), regulates many aspects of virulence in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Vfr, like CRP, binds to cAMP and then recognizes its target DNA and activates transcription. Here we report that Vfr has important functional differences from CRP in terms of ligand sensing and response. First, Vfr has a significantly higher cAMP affinity than does CRP, which might explain the mysteriously unidirectional functional complementation between the two proteins (S. E. H. West et al., J. Bacteriol. 176:7532–7542, 1994). Second, Vfr is activated by both cAMP and cGMP, while CRP is specific to cAMP. Mutagenic analyses show that Thr133 (analogous to Ser128 of CRP) is the key residue for both of these distinct Vfr properties. On the other hand, substitutions that cause cAMP-independent activity in Vfr are similar to those seen in CRP, suggesting that a common cAMP activation mechanism is present. In the course of these analyses, we found a remarkable class of Vfr variants that have completely reversed the regulatory logic of the protein: they are active in DNA binding without cAMP and are strongly inhibited by cAMP. The physiological impact of Vfr's ligand sensing and response is discussed, as is a plausible basis for the fundamental change in protein allostery in the novel group of Vfr variants.
PMCID: PMC3165676  PMID: 21764924
12.  A Subunit of Protein Kinase A Regulates Growth and Differentiation in the Fungus Mucor circinelloides▿  
Eukaryotic Cell  2009;8(7):933-944.
The cyclic AMP (cAMP)-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) signaling pathway plays a role in regulating development, growth, and virulence in a number of fungi. To determine whether PKA plays a similar function in zygomycete fungi, a mutant of Mucor circinelloides was generated that lacks pkaR1, one of the regulatory subunits of PKA. The mutant showed a reduction in growth and alterations in germination rates, cell volume, germ tube length, and asexual sporulation. The lack of pkaR1 gene resulted in a highly decreased, but not null, cAMP binding activity and in a protein kinase activity that was still dependent on cAMP, although with a higher −/+ cAMP activity ratio, suggesting the existence of other cAMP binding activities. Consequently, three proteins analogous to pkaR1 were predicted from the recently sequenced genome of M. circinelloides and were named pkaR2, pkaR3, and pkaR4. Two of the proteins, pkaR2 and pkaR3, with cAMP binding activity were isolated from the wild-type strain and identified by mass spectrometry. The expression of all genes was detected at the mRNA level by semiquantitative reverse transcription-PCR, and they showed a differential expression at different developmental stages. This is the first time that a fungus is reported to have more than one gene encoding the regulatory subunit of PKA.
PMCID: PMC2708453  PMID: 19411621
13.  A Fluorescence-Based High-Throughput Assay for the Discovery of Exchange Protein Directly Activated by Cyclic AMP (EPAC) Antagonists 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30441.
The discovery, more than ten years ago, of exchange proteins directly activated by cAMP (EPAC) as a new family of intracellular cAMP receptors revolutionized the cAMP signaling research field. Extensive studies have revealed that the cAMP signaling network is much more complex and dynamic as many cAMP-related cellular processes, previously thought to be controlled by protein kinase A, are found to be also mediated by EPAC proteins. Although there have been many important discoveries in the roles of EPACs greater understanding of their physiological function in cAMP-mediated signaling is impeded by the absence of EPAC-specific antagonist.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To overcome this deficit, we have developed a fluorescence-based high throughput assay for screening EPAC specific antagonists. Our assay is highly reproducible and simple to perform using the “mix and measure” format. A pilot screening using the NCI-DTP diversity set library led to the identification of small chemical compounds capable of specifically inhibiting cAMP-induced EPAC activation while not affecting PKA activity.
Our study establishes a robust high throughput screening assay that can be effectively applied for the discovery of EPAC-specific antagonists, which may provide valuable pharmacological tools for elucidating the biological functions of EPAC and for promoting an understanding of disease mechanisms related to EPAC/cAMP signaling.
PMCID: PMC3262007  PMID: 22276201
14.  The cell density factor CMF regulates the chemoattractant receptor cAR1 in Dictyostelium 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1996;134(6):1543-1549.
Starving Dictyostelium cells aggregate by chemotaxis to cAMP when a secreted protein called conditioned medium factor (CMF) reaches a threshold concentration. Cells expressing CMF antisense mRNA fail to aggregate and do not transduce signals from the cAMP receptor. Signal transduction and aggregation are restored by adding recombinant CMF. We show here that two other cAMP-induced events, the formation of a slow dissociating form of the cAMP receptor and the loss of ligand binding, which is the first step of ligand-induced receptor sequestration, also require CMF. Vegetative cells have very few CMF and cAMP receptors, while starved cells possess approximately 40,000 receptors for CMF and cAMP. Transformants overexpressing the cAMP receptor gene cAR1 show a 10-fold increase of [3H]cAMP binding and a similar increase of [125I]CMF binding; disruption of the cAR1 gene abolishes both cAMP and CMF binding. In wild-type cells, downregulation of cAR1 with high levels of cAMP also downregulates CMF binding, and CMF similarly downregulates cAMP and CMF binding. This suggests that the cAMP binding and CMF binding are closely linked. Binding of approximately 200 molecules of CMF to starved cells affects the affinity of the majority of the cAR1 cAMP receptors within 2 min, indicating that an amplifying mechanism allows one activated CMF receptor to regulate many cARs. In cells lacking the G-protein beta subunit, cAMP induces a loss of cAMP binding, but not CMF binding, while CMF induces a reduction of CMF binding without affecting cAMP binding, suggesting that the linkage of the cell density-sensing CMF receptor and the chemoattractant cAMP receptor is through a G-protein.
PMCID: PMC2121003  PMID: 8830781
15.  Effects of β-adrenoceptor stimulation on delayed rectifier K+ currents in canine ventricular cardiomyocytes 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2011;162(4):890-896.
While the slow delayed rectifier K+ current (IKs) is known to be enhanced by the stimulation of β-adrenoceptors in several mammalian species, phosphorylation-dependent regulation of the rapid delayed rectifier K+ current (IKr) is controversial.
In the present study, therefore, the effect of isoprenaline (ISO), activators and inhibitors of the protein kinase A (PKA) pathway on IKr and IKs was studied in canine ventricular myocytes using the whole cell patch clamp technique.
IKr was significantly increased (by 30–50%) following superfusion with ISO, forskolin or intracellular application of PKA activator cAMP analogues (cAMP, 8-Br-cAMP, 6-Bnz-cAMP). Inhibition of PKA by Rp-8-Br-cAMP had no effect on baseline IKr. The stimulating effect of ISO on IKr was completely inhibited by selective β1-adrenoceptor antagonists (metoprolol and CGP-20712A), by the PKA inhibitor Rp-8-Br-cAMP and by the PKA activator cAMP analogues, but not by the EPAC activator 8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP. In comparison, IKs was increased threefold by the activation of PKA (by ISO or 8-Br-cAMP), and strongly reduced by the PKA inhibitor Rp-8-Br-cAMP. The ISO-induced enhancement of IKs was decreased by Rp-8-Br-cAMP and completely inhibited by 8-Br-cAMP.
The results indicate that the stimulation of β1-adrenoceptors increases IKr, similar to IKs, via the activation of PKA in canine ventricular cells.
PMCID: PMC3042199  PMID: 20973780
β-adrenoceptors; isoprenaline; cAMP; PKA; delayed rectifier K+ current; IKr; IKs; dog myocytes
16.  Dopaminergic tone regulates transient potassium current maximal conductance through a translational mechanism requiring D1Rs, cAMP/PKA, Erk and mTOR 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:143.
Dopamine (DA) can produce divergent effects at different time scales. DA has opposing immediate and long-term effects on the transient potassium current (IA) within neurons of the pyloric network, in the Panulirus interruptus stomatogastric ganglion. The lateral pyloric neuron (LP) expresses type 1 DA receptors (D1Rs). A 10 min application of 5-100 μM DA decreases LP IA by producing a decrease in IA maximal conductance (Gmax) and a depolarizing shift in IA voltage dependence through a cAMP-Protein kinase A (PKA) dependent mechanism. Alternatively, a 1 hr application of DA (≥5 nM) generates a persistent (measured 4 hr after DA washout) increase in IA Gmax in the same neuron, through a mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) dependent translational mechanism. We examined the dose, time and protein dependencies of the persistent DA effect.
We found that disrupting normal modulatory tone decreased LP IA. Addition of 500 pM-5 nM DA to the saline for 1 hr prevented this decrease, and in the case of a 5 nM DA application, the effect was sustained for >4 hrs after DA removal. To determine if increased cAMP mediated the persistent effect of 5nM DA, we applied the cAMP analog, 8-bromo-cAMP alone or with rapamycin for 1 hr, followed by wash and TEVC. 8-bromo-cAMP induced an increase in IA Gmax, which was blocked by rapamycin. Next we tested the roles of PKA and guanine exchange factor protein activated by cAMP (ePACs) in the DA-induced persistent change in IA using the PKA specific antagonist Rp-cAMP and the ePAC specific agonist 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP. The PKA antagonist blocked the DA induced increases in LP IA Gmax, whereas the ePAC agonist did not induce an increase in LP IA Gmax. Finally we tested whether extracellular signal regulated kinase (Erk) activity was necessary for the persistent effect by co-application of Erk antagonists PD98059 or U0126 with DA. Erk antagonism blocked the DA induced persistent increase in LP IA.
These data suggest that dopaminergic tone regulates ion channel density in a concentration and time dependent manner. The D1R- PKA axis, along with Erk and mTOR are necessary for the persistent increase in LP IA induced by high affinity D1Rs.
PMCID: PMC3840709  PMID: 24225021
17.  cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) activates transcription via two distinct genetic elements of the human glucose-6-phosphatase gene 
The enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase catalyzes the dephosphorylation of glucose-6-phosphatase to glucose, the final step in the gluconeogenic and glycogenolytic pathways. Expression of the glucose-6-phosphatase gene is induced by glucocorticoids and elevated levels of intracellular cAMP. The effect of cAMP in regulating glucose-6-phosphatase gene transcription was corroborated by the identification of two genetic motifs CRE1 and CRE2 in the human and murine glucose-6-phosphatase gene promoter that resemble cAMP response elements (CRE).
The cAMP response element is a point of convergence for many extracellular and intracellular signals, including cAMP, calcium, and neurotrophins. The major CRE binding protein CREB, a member of the basic region leucine zipper (bZIP) family of transcription factors, requires phosphorylation to become a biologically active transcriptional activator. Since unphosphorylated CREB is transcriptionally silent simple overexpression studies cannot be performed to test the biological role of CRE-like sequences of the glucose-6-phosphatase gene. The use of a constitutively active CREB2/CREB fusion protein allowed us to uncouple the investigation of target genes of CREB from the variety of signaling pathways that lead to an activation of CREB. Here, we show that this constitutively active CREB2/CREB fusion protein strikingly enhanced reporter gene transcription mediated by either CRE1 or CRE2 derived from the glucose-6-phosphatase gene. Likewise, reporter gene transcription was enhanced following expression of the catalytic subunit of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) in the nucleus of transfected cells. In contrast, activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2), known to compete with CREB for binding to the canonical CRE sequence 5'-TGACGTCA-3', did not transactivate reporter genes containing CRE1, CRE2, or both CREs derived from the glucose-6-phosphatase gene.
Using a constitutively active CREB2/CREB fusion protein and a mutant of the PKA catalytic subunit that is targeted to the nucleus, we have shown that the glucose-6-phosphatase gene has two distinct genetic elements that function as bona fide CRE. This study further shows that the expression vectors encoding C2/CREB and catalytic subunit of PKA are valuable tools for the study of CREB-mediated gene transcription and the biological functions of CREB.
PMCID: PMC548273  PMID: 15659240
18.  Clonal variants of PC12 pheochromocytoma cells with defects in cAMP-dependent protein kinases induce ornithine decarboxylase in response to nerve growth factor but not to adenosine agonists. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1985;5(8):1984-1992.
We have isolated and partially characterized three mutants of the pheochromocytoma line PC12 by using dibutyryl cyclic AMP (cAMP) as a selective agent. Each of these variants, A126-1B2, A208-4, and A208-7, was resistant to both dibutyryl cAMP and cholera toxin when cell growth was measured. In comparison to wild-type PC12 cells, each of these mutants was deficient in the ability to induce ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) in response to agents that act via a cAMP-dependent pathway. In contrast, each of these mutants induced ODC in response to nerve growth factor. To understand the nature of the mutations, the cAMP-dependent protein kinases of the wild type and of each of these mutants were studied by measuring both histone kinase activity and 8-N3-[32P]cAMP labeling. Wild-type PC12 cells contained both cAMP-dependent protein kinase type I (cAMP-PKI) and cAMP-dependent protein kinase type II (cAMP-PKII). Regulatory subunits were detected in both soluble and particulate fractions. The mutant A126-1B2 contained near wild-type PC12 levels of cAMP-PKI but greatly reduced levels of cAMP-PKII. Furthermore, when compared with wild-type PC12 cells, this cell line had an altered distribution in ion-exchange chromatography of regulatory subunits of cAMP-PKI and cAMP-PKII. The mutant A208-4 demonstrated wild-type-level binding of 8-N3-[32P]cAMP to both type I and type II regulatory subunits, but only half the wild-type level of type II catalytic activity. The mutant A208-7 had type I and type II catalytic activities equivalent to those in wild-type cells. However, the regulatory subunit of cAMP-PKI occurring in A208-7 demonstrated decreased levels of binding 8-N3-[32P]cAMP in comparison with the wild type. Furthermore, all mutants were defective in their abilities to bind 8-N3-[32P]cAMP to the type II regulatory protein in the particulate fraction. Thus, cAMP-PK was altered in each of these mutants. We conclude that both cAMP-PKI and cAMP-PKII are apparently required to induce ODC in response to increases in cAMP. Finally, since all three mutants induced ODC in response to nerve growth factor, the nerve growth factor-dependent induction of OCD was not mediated by an increase in cAMP that led to an activation of cAMP-PK. These mutants will be useful in the elucidation of the many functions controlled by cAMP and nerve growth factor.
PMCID: PMC366916  PMID: 3018542
19.  The cAMP Capture Compound Mass Spectrometry as a Novel Tool for Targeting cAMP-binding Proteins* 
The profiling of subproteomes from complex mixtures on the basis of small molecule interactions shared by members of protein families or small molecule interaction domains present in a subset of proteins is an increasingly important approach in functional proteomics. Capture CompoundTM Mass Spectrometry (CCMS) is a novel technology to address this issue. CCs are trifunctional molecules that accomplish the reversible binding of target protein families to a selectivity group (small molecule), covalent capturing of the bound proteins by photoactivated cross-linking through a reactivity group, and pullout of the small molecule-protein complexes through a sorting function, e.g. biotin. Here we present the design, synthesis, and application of a new Capture Compound to target and identify cAMP-binding proteins in complex protein mixtures. Starting with modest amounts of total protein mixture (65–500 μg), we demonstrate that the cAMP-CCs can be used to isolate bona fide cAMP-binding proteins from lysates of Escherichia coli, mammalian HepG2 cells, and subcellular fractions of mammalian brain, respectively. The identified proteins captured by the cAMP-CCs range from soluble cAMP-binding proteins, such as the catabolite gene activator protein from E. coli and regulatory subunits of protein kinase A from mammalian systems, to cAMP-activated potassium/sodium hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels from neuronal membranes and specifically synaptosomal fractions from rat brain. The latter group of proteins has never been identified before in any small molecule protein interaction and mass spectrometry-based proteomics study. Given the modest amount of protein input required, we expect that CCMS using the cAMP-CCs provides a unique tool for profiling cAMP-binding proteins from proteome samples of limited abundance, such as tissue biopsies.
PMCID: PMC2816025  PMID: 19741253
20.  Gene Expression Signatures of cAMP/Protein Kinase A (PKA)-promoted, Mitochondrial-dependent Apoptosis 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;283(7):10.1074/jbc.M708673200.
The second messenger cAMP acts via protein kinase A (PKA) to induce apoptosis by mechanisms that are poorly understood. Here, we assessed a role for mitochondria and analyzed gene expression in cAMP/PKA-promoted apoptosis by comparing wild-type (WT) S49 lymphoma cells and the S49 variant, D− (cAMP-deathless), which lacks cAMP-promoted apoptosis but has wild-type levels of PKA activity and cAMP-promoted G1 growth arrest. Treatment of WT, but not D−, S49 cells with 8-CPT-cAMP (8-(4-chlorophenylthio)-adenosine-3′:5′-cyclic monophosphate) for 24 h induced loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, mitochondrial release of cytochrome c and SMAC, and increase in caspase-3 activity. Gene expression analysis (using Affymetrix 430 2.0 arrays) revealed that WT and D− cells incubated with 8-CPT-cAMP have similar, but non-identical, extents of cAMP-regulated gene expression at 2 h (~800 transcripts) and 6 h (~1000 transcripts) (|Fold| >2, p <0.06); by contrast, at 24 h, ~2500 and ~1100 transcripts were changed in WT and D− cells, respectively. Using an approach that combined regression analysis, clustering, and functional annotation to identify transcripts that showed differential expression between WT and D− cells, we found differences in cAMP-mediated regulation of mRNAs involved in transcriptional repression, apoptosis, the cell cycle, RNA splicing, Golgi, and lysosomes. The two cell lines differed in cAMP-response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation and expression of the transcriptional inhibitor ICER (inducible cAMP early repressor) and in cAMP-regulated expression of genes in the inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) and Bcl families. The findings indicate that cAMP/PKA-promoted apoptosis of lymphoid cells occurs via mitochondrial-mediated events and imply that such apoptosis involves gene networks in multiple biochemical pathways.
PMCID: PMC3882191  PMID: 18048352
21.  The cAMP-activated GTP exchange factor, Epac1 Upregulates Plasma Membrane and Nuclear Akt Kinase Activities in 8-CPT-2-O-Me-cAMP-Stimulated Macrophages: Gene silencing of the cAMP-activated GTP exchange Epac1 prevents 8-CPT-2-O-Me-cAMP activation of Akt activity in macrophages* 
Cellular signalling  2008;20(8):1459-1470.
cAMP regulates a wide range of processes through its downstream effectors including PKA, and the family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors. Depending on the cell type, cAMP inhibits or stimulates growth and proliferation in a PKA-dependent or independent manner. PKA-independent effects are mediated by PI 3-kinases-Akt signaling and EPAC1 (exchange protein directly activated by cAMP) activation. Recently, we reported PKA-independent activation of the protein kinase Akt as well co-immunoprecipitation of Epac1 with Rap1, p-AktThr-308, and p-AktSer-473 in forskolin-stimulated macrophages. To further probe the role of Epac1 in Akt protein kinase activation and cellular proliferation, we employed the cAMP analog 8-CPT-2-O-Me-cAMP, which selectively binds to Epac1 and triggers Epac1 signaling. We show the association of Epac1 with activated Akt kinases by co-immunoprecipitation and GST-pulldown assays. Silencing Epac1 gene expression by RNA interference significantly reduced levels of Epac1 mRNA, Epac protein, Rap1•GTP, p-ERK1/2, p-B-Raf, p110α catalytic subunit of PI 3-kinase, p-PDK, and p-p70s6k. Silencing Epac1 gene expression by RNA interference also suppressed 8-CPT-2-O-Me-cAMP-upregulated protein and DNA synthesis. Concomitantly, 8-CPT-2-O-Me-cAMP-mediated upregulation of AktThr-308 protein kinase activity and p-AktThr-308 levels was prevented in plasma membranes and nuclei of the cells. In contrast, silencing Epac1 gene expression reduced AktSer-473 kinase activity and p-AktSer-473 levels in plasma membranes, but showed negligible effects on nuclear activity. In conclusion, we show that cAMP-induced Akt kinase activation and cellular proliferation is mediated by Epac1 which appears to function as an accessory protein for Akt activation.
PMCID: PMC2519236  PMID: 18495429
Cyclic AMP generation in macrophages; 8-CPT-2-O-Me-cAMP and cyclic AMP-dependent regulation in macrophages; Akt protein kinase activation; Epac1 and Akt protein kinase activation
22.  Intrinsic disorder within an AKAP-protein kinase A complex guides local substrate phosphorylation 
eLife  2013;2:e01319.
Anchoring proteins sequester kinases with their substrates to locally disseminate intracellular signals and avert indiscriminate transmission of these responses throughout the cell. Mechanistic understanding of this process is hampered by limited structural information on these macromolecular complexes. A-kinase anchoring proteins (AKAPs) spatially constrain phosphorylation by cAMP-dependent protein kinases (PKA). Electron microscopy and three-dimensional reconstructions of type-II PKA-AKAP18γ complexes reveal hetero-pentameric assemblies that adopt a range of flexible tripartite configurations. Intrinsically disordered regions within each PKA regulatory subunit impart the molecular plasticity that affords an ∼16 nanometer radius of motion to the associated catalytic subunits. Manipulating flexibility within the PKA holoenzyme augmented basal and cAMP responsive phosphorylation of AKAP-associated substrates. Cell-based analyses suggest that the catalytic subunit remains within type-II PKA-AKAP18γ complexes upon cAMP elevation. We propose that the dynamic movement of kinase sub-structures, in concert with the static AKAP-regulatory subunit interface, generates a solid-state signaling microenvironment for substrate phosphorylation.
eLife digest
It was once thought that proteins needed to have structures that were both ordered and stable, but this view was changed by the discovery that certain proteins contain regions that are disordered and flexible. In some cases these regions of intrinsic disorder help the protein to function by linking more stable regions that are active. However, in other proteins the disordered regions are themselves biologically active and can, for example, function as enzymes.
Protein kinase A is a family of enzymes that contains both ordered and disordered regions, with the ordered sections being involved in phosphorylation, a chemical process that is widely used for communication within cells. However, in order to initiate phosphorylation, these kinases must be anchored to a rigid substrate nearby, so a second group of proteins called AKAPs–which is short for A-kinase anchoring proteins–hold the kinases in place by binding to their disordered regions. These AKAPs also help the kinases to dock with other molecules involved in phosphorylation.
A full structural picture of how the kinases induce phosphorylation has yet to be obtained, partly because it is extremely difficult to determine the structure of the disordered regions within the kinases. Moreover, the AKAPs are also disordered, which makes it difficult to work out how the kinases are held in position.
Smith, Reichow et al. have used electron microscopy to reveal that the disordered region has two important roles: it determines how far away from the anchoring protein that the active region of the kinase can operate, and it influences how efficiently the kinase can bind to its target molecule in order to induce phosphorylation. Future challenges include investigating how the inherent flexibility of AKAP complexes contribute to the efficient phosphorylation of physiological targets.
PMCID: PMC3814001  PMID: 24192038
A-kinase anchoring protein (AKAP); cAMP signaling; single particle reconstruction; cAMP-dependent kinase (PKA); electron microscopy; intrinsic disorder; None
European biophysics journal : EBJ  2008;38(4):381-393.
Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) are involved in microtubule (MT) bundling and in crossbridges between MTs and other organelles. Previous studies have assigned the MT bundling function of MAPs to their MT-binding domain and its modulation by the projection domain. In the present work, we analyse the viscoelastic properties of MT suspensions in the presence or the absence of cAMP. The experimental data reveal the occurrence of interactions between MT polymers involving MAP2 and modulated by cAMP. Two distinct mechanisms of action of cAMP are identified, which involve on one hand the phosphorylation of MT proteins by the cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) bound to the end of the N-terminal projection of MAP2, and on the other hand the binding of cAMP to the RII subunit of the PKA affecting interactions between MTs in a phosphorylation-independent manner. These findings imply a role for the complex of PKA with the projection domain of MAP2 in MT-MT interactions and suggest that cAMP may influence directly the density and bundling of MT arrays in dendrites of neurons.
PMCID: PMC2895978  PMID: 19009287
microtubules; microtubule-associated protein 2; protein kinase A; cyclic AMP; interactions
24.  Epac-selective cAMP Analog 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP as a Stimulus for Ca2+-induced Ca2+ Release and Exocytosis in Pancreatic β-Cells* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2002;278(10):8279-8285.
The second messenger cAMP exerts powerful stimulatory effects on Ca2+ signaling and insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells. Previous studies of β-cells focused on protein kinase A (PKA) as a downstream effector of cAMP action. However, it is now apparent that cAMP also exerts its effects by binding to cAMP-regulated guanine nucleotide exchange factors (Epac). Although one effector of Epac is the Ras-related G protein Rap1, it is not fully understood what the functional consequences of Epac-mediated signal transduction are at the cellular level. 8-(4-chloro-phenylthio)-2′-O-methyladenosine-3′-5′-cyclic monophosphate (8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP) is a newly described cAMP analog, and it activates Epac but not PKA. Here we demonstrate that 8-pCPT-2′-O-Me-cAMP acts in human pancreatic β-cells and INS-1 insulin-secreting cells to mobilize Ca2+ from intracellular Ca2+ stores via Epac-mediated Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR). The cAMP-dependent increase of [Ca2+]i that accompanies CICR is shown to be coupled to exocytosis. We propose that the interaction of cAMP and Epac to trigger CICR explains, at least in part, the blood glucose-lowering properties of an insulinotropic hormone (glucagon-like peptide-1, also known as GLP-1) now under investigation for use in the treatment of type-2 diabetes mellitus.
PMCID: PMC3516291  PMID: 12496249
25.  Opposing Roles of pka and epac in the cAMP-Dependent Regulation of Schwann Cell Proliferation and Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82354.
In Schwann cells (SCs), cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) not only induces differentiation into a myelinating SC-related phenotype, but also synergistically enhances the mitogenic action of growth factors such as neuregulin. To better understand the molecular mechanism by which cAMP exerts these apparently contradictory functions, we investigated the role of the two main effectors of cAMP, protein kinase A (PKA) and the exchange protein activated by cAMP (EPAC), on the proliferation and differentiation of both isolated and axon-related SCs. For these studies, a variety of PKA and EPAC agonists and antagonists were used, including pathway-selective analogs of cAMP and pharmacological inhibitors. Our studies indicated that the activity of PKA rather than EPAC was required for the adjuvant effect of cAMP on S-phase entry, whereas the activity of EPAC rather than PKA was required for SC differentiation and myelin formation. Even though selective EPAC activation had an overall anti-proliferative effect in SCs, it failed to drive the expression of Krox-20, a master regulator of myelination, and that of myelin-specific proteins and lipids, suggesting that EPAC activation was insufficient to drive a full differentiating response. Interestingly, inhibition of EPAC activity resulted in a drastic impairment of SC differentiation and myelin formation but not Krox-20 expression, which indicates an independent mechanism of Krox-20 regulation in response to cAMP. In conclusion, our data supports the idea that the outcome of cAMP signaling in SCs depends on the particular set of effectors activated. Whereas the mitogenic action of cAMP relies exclusively on PKA activity, the differentiating action of cAMP requires a PKA-independent (non-canonical) cAMP-specific pathway that is partially transduced by EPAC.
PMCID: PMC3859537  PMID: 24349260

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