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Mol Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;67(4):1158-65. Epub 2004 Dec 29.

N-methyl-D-aspartate and brain-derived neurotrophic factor induce distinct profiles of extracellular signal-regulated kinase, mitogen- and stress-activated kinase, and ribosomal s6 kinase phosphorylation in cortical neurons.

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Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, West Medical Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK.


Stimulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is believed to underlie long-term memory formation, and excessive NMDA receptor activation has been linked to several neuropathological conditions. Phosphorylation and activation of p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinase (ERK) is believed to mediate many of these effects, but the downstream targets of ERK in response to NMDA activation have not been determined. In primary cultures of rat cortical neurons, we found that NMDA was able to elevate phosphorylation of mitogen- and stress-activated kinase 1 (MSK1) as well as ERK. Likewise, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) treatment increased phosphorylation of MSK1 and ERKs. The NMDA-induced MSK1 phosphorylation was sensitive to the MEK inhibitor 2'-amino-3'-methoxyflavone (PD98059) and the p38 inhibitor 4-(4-fluorophenyl)-2-(4-methylsulfinylphenyl)-5-(4-pyridyl)1H-imidazole (SB203580). MSK1 activation by NMDA was transient, although ERK remained phosphorylated within the neuronal cytoplasm for several hours. Although BDNF increased ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK) phosphorylation, NMDA had no discernable effect on the phosphorylation of RSKs. Thus, phosphorylation and activation of MSK1 but not RSK could be an important step in the pathway linking NMDA-induced ERK phosphorylation to the activation of transcription factors required for the formation of long-term memory.

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