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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jan 26;276(4):2627-36. Epub 2000 Nov 2.

N-methyl D-aspartate receptor-mediated bidirectional control of extracellular signal-regulated kinase activity in cortical neuronal cultures.

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Departments of Physiology/Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.


N-Methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activation of extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK) was examined in primary cortical cultures. Tetrodotoxin, NMDA receptor antagonists, or reduced extracellular calcium (0.1 mm) greatly decreased basal levels of phospho-ERK2, indicating that activity-dependent activation of NMDA receptors maintained a high level of basal ERK2 activation. This activity-dependent activation of phospho-ERK2 was blocked by pertussis toxin and inhibition of calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase but not by inhibition of protein kinase C or cAMP-dependent protein kinase. Addition of a calcium ionophore or 100 microm NMDA decreased phospho-ERK2 in the presence of 1 mm extracellular calcium but enhanced phospho-ERK2 in 0.1 mm extracellular calcium. The reduction in basal phospho-ERK2 by 100 microm NMDA was also reflected as a decrease in phospho-cAMP response element-binding protein. Inhibition of tyrosine phosphatases and serine/threonine phosphatases protein phosphatase 1 (PP1), PP2A, and PP2B did not prevent the inhibitory effect of NMDA. In the presence of tetrodotoxin, NMDA produced a bell-shaped dose-response curve with stimulation of phospho-ERK2 at 10, 25, and 50 microm NMDA and reduced stimulation at 100 microm NMDA. NMDA (50 microm) stimulation of phospho-ERK2 was completely blocked by pertussis toxin and inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and was partially blocked by a calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II inhibitor. These results suggests that NMDA receptors can bidirectionally control ERK signaling.

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