Cyclic AMP (cAMP) promotes neurite outgrowth in a variety of neuronal cell lines through the activation of protein kinase A (PKA). We show here, using both Xenopus laevis embryonic neuronal culture and intact X. laevis embryos, that the nerve growth-promoting action of cAMP/PKA is mediated in part by the phosphorylation of synapsins at a single amino acid residue. Expression of a mutated form of synapsin that prevents phosphorylation at this site, or introduction of phospho-specific antibodies directed against this site, decreased basal and dibutyryl cAMP-stimulated neurite outgrowth. Expression of a mutation mimicking constitutive phosphorylation at this site increased neurite outgrowth, both under basal conditions and in the presence of a PKA inhibitor. These results provide a potential molecular approach for stimulating neuron regeneration, after injury and in neurodegenerative diseases.
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