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J Biol Chem. 2006 Jun 30;281(26):18081-9. Epub 2006 Apr 28.

Kappa opioid receptor activation of p38 MAPK is GRK3- and arrestin-dependent in neurons and astrocytes.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Washington, 1959 Pacific Avenue N.E., Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


AtT-20 cells expressing the wild-type kappa opioid receptor (KOR) increased phospho-p38 MAPK following treatment with the kappa agonist U50,488. The increase was blocked by the kappa antagonist norbinaltorphimine and not evident in untransfected cells. In contrast, U50,488 treatment of AtT-20 cells expressing KOR having alanine substituted for serine-369 (KSA) did not increase phospho-p38. Phosphorylation of serine 369 in the KOR carboxyl terminus by G-protein receptor kinase 3 (GRK3) was previously shown to be required for receptor desensitization, and the results suggest that p38 MAPK activation by KOR may require arrestin recruitment. This hypothesis was tested by transfecting arrestin3-(R170E), a dominant positive form of arrestin that does not require receptor phosphorylation for activation. AtT-20 cells expressing both KSA and arrestin3-(R170E) responded to U50,488 treatment with an increase in phospho-p38 consistent with the hypothesis. Primary cultured astrocytes (glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive) and neurons (gamma-aminobutyric acid-positive) isolated from mouse striata also responded to U50,488 by increasing phospho-p38 immunolabeling. p38 activation was not evident in either striatal astrocytes or neurons isolated from KOR knock-out mice or GRK3 knock-out mice. Astrocytes pretreated with small interfering RNA for arrestin3 were also unable to activate p38 in response to U50,488 treatment. Furthermore, in striatal neurons, the kappa-mediated phospho-p38 labeling was colocalized with arrestin3. These findings suggest that KOR may activate p38 MAPK in brain by a GRK3 and arrestin-dependent mechanism.

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