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J Biol Chem. 2012 Oct 19;287(43):36051-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.394726. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Cyclic GMP-dependent stimulation of serotonin transport does not involve direct transporter phosphorylation by cGMP-dependent protein kinase.

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Department of Pharmacology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8066, USA.


The serotonin transporter (SERT) is responsible for reuptake of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) after its exocytotic release from neurons. It is the primary target for antidepressants and stimulants, including "ecstasy" (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). SERT is regulated by several processes, including a cyclic GMP signaling pathway involving nitric oxide synthase, guanylyl cyclase, and cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG). Here, we show that SERT was phosphorylated in a PKG Iα-dependent manner in vitro, but that SERT was not a direct substrate of PKG. We generated an analog-sensitive gatekeeper residue mutant of PKG Iα (M438G) that efficiently used the ATP analog N(6)-benzyl-ATP. This mutant, but not the wild type (WT) kinase, used the ATP analog to phosphorylate both a model peptide substrate as well as an established protein substrate of PKG (vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein). PKG Iα M438G effectively substituted for the WT kinase in stimulating SERT-mediated 5-hydroxytryptamine transport in cultured cells. Addition of either WT or mutant PKG Iα M438G to membranes containing SERT in vitro led to radiolabel incorporation from [γ-(33)P]ATP but not from similarly labeled N(6)-benzyl-ATP, indicating that SERT was phosphorylated by another kinase that could not utilize the ATP analog. These results are consistent with the proposed SERT phosphorylation site, Thr-276, being highly divergent from the consensus PKG phosphorylation site sequence, which we verified through peptide library screening. Another proposed SERT kinase, the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, could not substitute for PKG in this assay, and p38 inhibitors did not block PKG-dependent phosphorylation of SERT. The results suggest that PKG initiates a kinase cascade that leads to phosphorylation of SERT by an as yet unidentified protein kinase.

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