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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025019. Epub 2011 Sep 27.

Prenatal cocaine exposure increases synaptic localization of a neuronal RasGEF, GRASP-1 via hyperphosphorylation of AMPAR anchoring protein, GRIP.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, The City University of New York Medical School, New York, New York, United States of America.


Prenatal cocaine exposure causes sustained phosphorylation of the synaptic anchoring protein, glutamate receptor interacting protein (GRIP1/2), preventing synaptic targeting of the GluR2/3-containing alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs; J. Neurosci. 29: 6308-6319, 2009). Because overexpression of GRIP-associated neuronal rasGEF protein (GRASP-1) specifically reduces the synaptic targeting of AMPARs, we hypothesized that prenatal cocaine exposure enhances GRASP-1 synaptic membrane localization leading to hyper-activation of ras family proteins and heightened actin polymerization. Our results show a markedly increased GRIP1-associated GRASP-1 content with approximately 40% reduction in its rasGEF activity in frontal cortices (FCX) of 21-day-old (P21) prenatal cocaine-exposed rats. This cocaine effect is the result of a persistent protein kinase C (PKC)- and downstream Src tyrosine kinase-mediated GRIP phosphorylation. The hyperactivated PKC also increased membrane-associated GRASP-1 and activated small G-proteins RhoA, cdc42/Rac1 and Rap1 as well as filamentous actin (F-actin) levels without an effect on the phosphorylation state of actin. Since increased F-actin facilitates protein transport, our results suggest that increased GRASP-1 synaptic localization in prenatal cocaine-exposed brains is an adaptive response to restoring the synaptic expression of AMPA-GluR2/3. Our earlier data demonstrated that persistent PKC-mediated GRIP phosphorylation reduces GluR2/3 synaptic targeting in prenatal cocaine-exposed brains, we now show that the increased GRIP-associated GRASP-1 may contribute to the reduction in GluR2/3 synaptic expression and AMPAR signaling defects.

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