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Biophys J. 1999 Aug;77(2):973-84.

Distribution of active protein kinase C in smooth muscle.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Institute, Department of Medical Physiology, College of Medicine, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, College Station, Texas 77843 USA.


To localize activated protein kinase C (PKC) in smooth muscle cells, an antibody directed to the catalytic site of the enzyme was used to assess PKC distribution by immunofluorescence techniques in gastric smooth muscle cells isolated from Bufo marinus. An antibody to vinculin was used to delineate the cell membrane. High-resolution three-dimensional images of immunofluorescence were obtained from a series of images collected through focus with a digital imaging microscope. Cells were untreated or treated with agents that increase PKC activity (10 microM carbachol for 1 min, 1 microM phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) for 10 min), or have no effect on PKC activity (1 micrometer 4-alpha phorbol, 12,13-didecanoate (4-alpha PMA)). In unstimulated cells, activated PKC and vinculin were located and organized at the cell surface. Cell cytosol labeling for activated PKC was sparse and diffuse and was absent for vinculin. After treatment with carbachol, which stimulates contraction and PKC activity, in addition to the membrane localization, the activated PKC exhibited a pronounced cytosolic fibrillar distribution and an increased total fluorescence intensity relative to vinculin. The distributions of activated PKC observed after PMA but not 4-alpha PMA were similar to those observed with carbachol. Our results indicate that in resting cells there is a pool of activated PKC near the cell membrane, and that after stimulation activated PKC is no longer membrane-confined, but is present throughout the cytosol. Active PKC appears to associate with contractile filaments, supporting a possible role in modulation of contraction.

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