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J Biol Chem. 2013 Apr 5;288(14):9634-47. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.442616. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Extracellular signal-regulated kinase and glycogen synthase kinase 3β regulate gephyrin postsynaptic aggregation and GABAergic synaptic function in a calpain-dependent mechanism.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Molecular mechanisms of plasticity at GABAergic synapses are currently poorly understood. To identify signaling cascades that converge onto GABAergic postsynaptic density proteins, we performed MS analysis using gephyrin isolated from rat brain and identified multiple novel phosphorylation and acetylation residues on gephyrin. Here, we report the characterization of one of these phosphoresidues, Ser-268, which when dephosphorylated leads to the formation of larger postsynaptic scaffolds. Using a combination of mutagenesis, pharmacological treatment, and biochemical assays, we identify ERK as the kinase phosphorylating Ser-268 and describe a functional interaction between residues Ser-268 and Ser-270. We further demonstrate that alterations in gephyrin clustering via ERK modulation are reflected by amplitude and frequency changes in miniature GABAergic postsynaptic currents. We unravel novel mechanisms for activity- and ERK-dependent calpain action on gephyrin, which are likely relevant in the context of cellular signaling affecting GABAergic transmission and homeostatic synaptic plasticity in pathology.

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