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Neuroscience. 1992 Nov;51(2):463-74.

Protein kinase C activation by phorbol esters induces chromaffin cell cortical filamentous actin disassembly and increases the initial rate of exocytosis in response to nicotinic receptor stimulation.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Canada.


Nicotinic stimulation and high K+ depolarization of bovine chromaffin cells cause disassembly of cortical filamentous actin networks. Previous work from our laboratory has demonstrated that disassembly of actin filaments is Ca(2+)-dependent, precedes exocytosis and occurs in cortical areas of low cytoplasmic viscosity which are the sites of exocytosis. It has also been suggested that protein kinase C is involved in catecholamine secretion from chromaffin cells. Therefore, the possibility that protein kinase C activation might be implicated in cortical filamentous actin disassembly was investigated. Here we report that phorbol myristate acetate, a protein kinase C activator, causes cortical filamentous actin disassembly. Short-term phorbol ester treatment does not alter the morphology of chromaffin cells; however, 1 h after phorbol ester exposure an increase in cell flattening and membrane ruffling is observed. Phorbol ester-induced cortical filamentous actin disassembly is inhibited by protein kinase C activity inhibitors, is independent of extracellular Ca2+ and has a slower time course than that induced by either nicotinic receptor stimulation or K(+)-depolarization. Phorbol ester effects are likely to be mediated by activation of protein kinase C and not by any changes in intracellular Ca2+ levels, as indicated by measurements of Ca2+ transients. Pretreatment of chromaffin cells with phorbol myristate acetate increases the initial rate of nicotine-evoked catecholamine release. Nicotine-induced cortical actin filament disassembly and catecholamine secretion are partially (29-40%) inhibited by pretreatment of cells with either calphostin C, staurosporine or sphingosine. The results suggest that protein kinase C may be involved in the reorganization of the cortical actin filament network priming the cells for release by removing a barrier to secretory granule mobility. However, its role in exocytosis is modulatory but not essential.

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