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Sci Rep. 2015 Oct 29;5:15709. doi: 10.1038/srep15709.

Rapid alteration of protein phosphorylation during postmortem: implication in the study of protein phosphorylation.

Wang Y1,2,3, Zhang Y1,2, Hu W1,2, Xie S1,2, Gong CX1,2, Iqbal K1, Liu F1,2.

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Department of Neurochemistry, Inge Grundke-Iqbal Research Floor, New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island, New York 10314, USA.
Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Neuroregeneration, Co-innovation Center of Neuroregeneration, Nantong University, Nantong, Jiangsu 226001, P. R. China.
School of Pharmacy, Nantong University, Nantong, Jiangsu 226001, P. R. China.


Protein phosphorylation is an important post-translational modification of proteins. Postmortem tissues are widely being utilized in the biomedical studies, but the effects of postmortem on protein phosphorylation have not been received enough attention. In the present study, we found here that most proteins in mouse brain, heart, liver, and kidney were rapidly dephosphorylated to various degrees during 20 sec to 10 min postmortem. Phosphorylation of tau at Thr212 and glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β) at Ser9 was reduced by 50% in the brain with 40 sec postmortem, a regular time for tissue processing. During postmortem, phosphorylation of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) and AMP activated kinase (AMPK) was increased in the brain, but not in other organs. Perfusion of the brain with cold or room temperature phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) also caused significant alteration of protein phosphorylation. Cooling down and maintaining mouse brains in the ice-cold buffer prevented the alteration effectively. This study suggests that phosphorylation of proteins is rapidly changed during postmortem. Thus, immediate processing of tissues followed by cooling down in ice-cold buffer is vitally important and perfusion has to be avoided when protein phosphorylation is to be studied.

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