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Elevated intracellular Ca2+ triggers numerous signaling pathways including protein kinases such as the calmodulin-dependent kinases (CaMKs) and the extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs). In the present study we examined Ca2- dependent “cross-talk” between these two protein kinase families. Using a combination of pharmacological inhibitors and dominant- negative kinases (dnKinase), we identified a requirement for CaMKK acting through CaMKI in the stimulation of ERKs upon depolarization of the neuroblastoma cell line, NG108. Depolarization stimulated prolonged ERK and JNK activation that was blocked by the CaMKK inhibitor, STO-609; this inhibition of ERK activation by STO-609 was rescued by expression of a STO-609-insensitive mutant of CaMKK. However, activation of ERK by epidermal growth factor or carbachol were not suppressed by inhibition of CaMKK, indicating specificity for this “cross-talk.” To identify the downstream target of CaMKK that mediated ERK activation upon depolarization, dnKinases were expressed. The dnCaMKI completely suppressed ERK2 activation whereas dnAKT/PKB or nuclear-targeted dnCaMKIV, other substrates for CaMKK, were not inhibitory. ERK activation upon depolarization or transfection with constitutively active (ca) CaMKI was blocked by dnRas. Additionally, depolarization of NG108 cells promoted neurite outgrowth, and this effect was blocked by inhibition of either CaMKK (STO- 609) or ERK (UO126). Co-transfection with caCaMKK plus caCaMKI also stimulated neurite outgrowth that was blocked by inhibition of ERK (UO126). These data are the first to suggest that ERK activation and neurite outgrowth in response to depolarization are mediated by CaMKK activation of CaMKI.


Originally published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 279, No. 23, Issue of June 4, pp. 24064 –24072, 2004

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