Thrombin stimulates stress fiber assembly in RPE cells by PKC/CPI-17-mediated MLCP inactivation

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Most retinal proliferative diseases involve blood-retinal barrier (BRB) breakdown, exposing the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) to thrombin, which triggers cell transformation, proliferation and migration through the activation of PAR-1. These processes require the assembly of contractile stress fibers containing actin and non-muscle myosin II, which allow cell movement upon phosphorylation of the myosin light chains (MLCs). PKC family of kinases promotes agonist-mediated contraction in smooth muscle and endothelial cells through the activation of its downstream target, the PKC-potentiated inhibitory protein of 17 kDa (CPI-17), which specifically inhibits MLC phosphatase. Although the participation of PKC in RPE cell transdifferentiation has been suggested, the role of PKC/CPI-17 signaling has not been investigated. The purpose of this study was to analyze the involvement of specific PKC isoenzymes and their effector protein CPI-17 in thrombin-induced MLC phosphorylation and actin stress fiber assembly in RPE cells. Rat RPE cells in primary culture were shown to respond to thrombin stimulation by activation of conventional, novel and atypical PKC isoforms and the downstream phosphorylation of CPI-17 and MLC, which in turn promoted actin stress fiber assembly. These effects were prevented by the pharmacological inhibition of conventional PKC isoenzymes (Ro-32-0432) and novel PKCδ (rottlerin and δV1-1 antagonist peptide), as well as by myristoylated pseudosubstrates specifically directed to conventional and atypical PKC isoforms. Thrombin effects were mimicked by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), further confirming the involvement of diacylglycerol (DAG)-sensitive classical and novel PKC isoforms in thrombin-induced actin cytoskeleton modification. The present work shows, for the first time, the functional expression of the oncoprotein CPI-17 in RPE cells and suggests that PKC/CPI-17 signaling is involved in the control of actin cytoskeletal remodeling leading to cell motility in RPE cells exposed to thrombin, and hence could contribute to the development of proliferative eye diseases.


★ Pathologic or traumatic BRB breakdown expose RPE to serum-contained thrombin. ★ Thrombin stimulates MLC phosphorylation through PKC/CPI-17 inhibition of MLCP. ★ Distinct PKC isoforms could function as specific sensors for stimulus intensity. ★ Thrombin-induced MLC phosphorylation promotes actin stress fiber assembly. ★ Acto-myosin contraction may lead to fibrotic and invasive RPE cell transformation.

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