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SB Sayed, BJ Whitehouse, and PM Jones

The involvement of protein kinases in the signal transduction pathways controlling adrenal steroidogenesis is well established, and the phosphorylation of substrates by cAMP-dependent protein kinase is a major mechanism in ACTH action. However, the possibility that protein phosphatases (PPs) might also be involved in this process has not been investigated. The aim of this study was, therefore, to measure the function, expression and enzymic activity of PPs in zona glomerulosa (ZG) and zona fasciculata/reticularis (ZFR) tissue from the rat adrenal cortex. Immunoblot analysis using specific antisera demonstrated the presence in whole adrenals and capsules of PP type 1 (PP1) migrating with an apparent molecular mass of 37 kDa, and PP type 2A (PP2A) migrating with apparent molecular masses of 38 and 31 kDa. The PP inhibitors, okadaic acid (OA), calyculin A (CA), tautomycin and microcystin RR, caused a reduction in PP activity in vitro, at doses between 1 nM and 1 microM. In addition, treatment of ZG cells with the adenylate cyclase stimulator, forskolin (10 microM) resulted in a significant reduction in PP activity. The effects of CA and OA on steroid secretion by ZG and ZFR cells were also investigated. Neither CA nor OA had any effect on basal steroid secretion or on yields of steroid obtained from 22R-hydroxycholesterol at doses between 1 and 100 nM. However, both OA and CA (10 and 100 nM respectively) significantly reduced ACTH-stimulated aldosterone and corticosterone production by ZG and ZFR cells. CA and OA (10 and 100 nM respectively) also reduced steroid secretion by cells stimulated by forskolin (10 microM) or dibutyryl cAMP (200 microM). These results suggest that PPs may be involved in the intracellular mechanisms through which adrenocortical steroidogenesis is regulated, acting at a point after cAMP generation and action, but proximal to the side-chain cleavage of cholesterol.

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BJ Whitehouse, SL Gyles, PE Squires, SB Sayed, CJ Burns, SJ Persaud, and PM Jones

Y1 adrenocortical cells respond to activators of the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) signalling pathway not only with increases in steroid secretion but also with a characteristic change in cell morphology from flat and adherent to round and loosely attached. This change of shape, which may facilitate cholesterol transport to the mitochondrion, requires tyrosine dephosphorylation of the focal adhesion protein, paxillin, and can be blocked by inhibitors of phosphotyrosine phosphatase (PTP) activity. In a previous study we demonstrated that inhibition of phosphoserine/threonine phosphatase 1 and 2A (PP1/2A) activities caused a similar morphological response to PKA activation whilst opposing the effects on steroid production. We have now investigated the responses to PKA activation and inhibition of PP1/2A and used PTP inhibitors to examine the relationship between the morphological changes and enhanced steroid production. Both forskolin (FSK) and the PP1/2A inhibitor, calyculin A (CA), caused rapid and extensive rounding of Y1 cells. FSK-induced cell rounding was reversible and accompanied by a reduction in the tyrosine phosphorylation of paxillin. Rounding was prevented by the PTP inhibitors pervanadate (PV) and calpeptin (CP) and was associated with the maintained tyrosine phosphorylation of paxillin. In contrast, CA-induced cell rounding was not reversible over a 2-h period and was not affected by the presence of PTP inhibitors, and CA had no effect on the tyrosine phosphorylation of paxillin. Although neither CA nor FSK produced any gross changes in cell viability as judged by Trypan Blue exclusion or mitochondrial activity, CA-treated cells showed a marked reduction in total protein synthesis assessed by (35)S-incorporation. The effects of FSK and the PTP inhibitors on cell rounding were reflected in their effects on steroid production since PV and CP also inhibited FSK-stimulated steroid production. These results suggest that the mechanism through which inhibition of PP1/2A activities induces morphological changes in Y1 cells is fundamentally different from that seen in response to activation of PKA. They are consistent with PKA-induced shape changes in adrenocortical cells being mediated through increased PTP activity and the dephosphorylation of paxillin, and support the view that the morphological and functional responses to PKA activation in steroidogenic cells are intimately linked.