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J Biol Chem. 2000 Feb 4;275(5):3722-8.

Neuronal calcium activates a Rap1 and B-Raf signaling pathway via the cyclic adenosine monophosphate-dependent protein kinase.

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Vollum Institute, L474, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA.


Activity-dependent regulation of neuronal events such as cell survival and synaptic plasticity is controlled by increases in neuronal calcium levels. These actions often involve stimulation of intracellular kinase signaling pathways. For example, the mitogen-activated protein kinase, or extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), signaling cascade has increasingly been shown to be important for the induction of gene expression and long term potentiation. However, the mechanisms leading to ERK activation by neuronal calcium are still unclear. In the present study, we describe a protein kinase A (PKA)-dependent signaling pathway that may link neuronal calcium influx to ERKs via the small G-protein, Rap1, and the neuronal Raf isoform, B-Raf. Thus, in PC12 cells, depolarization-mediated calcium influx led to the activation of B-Raf, but not Raf-1, via PKA. Furthermore, depolarization also induced the PKA-dependent stimulation of Rap1 and led to the formation of a Rap1/B-Raf signaling complex. In contrast, depolarization did not lead to the association of Ras with B-Raf. The major action of PKA-dependent Rap1/B-Raf signaling in neuronal cells is the activation of ERKs. Thus, we further show that, in both PC12 cells and hippocampal neurons, depolarization-induced calcium influx stimulates ERK activity in a PKA-dependent manner. Given the fact that both Rap1 and B-Raf are highly expressed in the central nervous system, we suggest that this signaling pathway may regulate a number of activity-dependent neuronal functions.

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