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Open Access Research article

Analysis of the role of Ser1/Ser2/Thr9 phosphorylation on myosin II assembly and function in live cells

Jordan R Beach12, Lucila S Licate1, James F Crish1 and Thomas T Egelhoff1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology, Lerner Research Institute NC-10, Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA

2 Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA

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BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-52

Published: 2 December 2011

Abstract

Background

Phosphorylation of non-muscle myosin II regulatory light chain (RLC) at Thr18/Ser19 is well established as a key regulatory event that controls myosin II assembly and activation, both in vitro and in living cells. RLC can also be phosphorylated at Ser1/Ser2/Thr9 by protein kinase C (PKC). Biophysical studies show that phosphorylation at these sites leads to an increase in the Km of myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) for RLC, thereby indirectly inhibiting myosin II activity. Despite unequivocal evidence that PKC phosphorylation at Ser1/Ser2/Thr9 can regulate myosin II function in vitro, there is little evidence that this mechanism regulates myosin II function in live cells.

Results

The purpose of these studies was to investigate the role of Ser1/Ser2/Thr9 phosphorylation in live cells. To do this we utilized phospho-specific antibodies and created GFP-tagged RLC reporters with phosphomimetic aspartic acid substitutions or unphosphorylatable alanine substitutions at the putative inhibitory sites or the previously characterized activation sites. Cell lines stably expressing the RLC-GFP constructs were assayed for myosin recruitment during cell division, the ability to complete cell division, and myosin assembly levels under resting or spreading conditions. Our data shows that manipulation of the activation sites (Thr18/Ser19) significantly alters myosin II function in a number of these assays while manipulation of the putative inhibitory sites (Ser1/Ser2/Thr9) does not.

Conclusions

These studies suggest that inhibitory phosphorylation of RLC is not a substantial regulatory mechanism, although we cannot rule out its role in other cellular processes or perhaps other types of cells or tissues in vivo.