A novel regulatory role of RGS4 in STAT5B activation, neurite outgrowth and neuronal differentiation

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The Regulator of G protein Signalling 4 (RGS4) is a multitask protein that interacts with and negatively modulates opioid receptor signalling. Previously, we showed that the δ-opioid receptor (δ-OR) forms a multiprotein signalling complex consisting of Gi/Go proteins and the Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 5B (STAT5B) that leads to neuronal differentiation and neurite outgrowth upon δ-OR activation. Here, we investigated whether RGS4 could participate in signalling pathways to regulate neurotropic events. We demonstrate that RGS4 interacts directly with STAT5B independently of δ-OR presence both in vitro and in living cells. This interaction involves the N-terminal portion of RGS4 and the DNA-binding SH3 domain of STAT5B. Expression of RGS4 in HEK293 cells expressing δ-OR and/or erythropoietin receptor results in inhibition of [D-Ser2, Leu5, Thr6]-enkephalin (DSLET)-and erythropoietin-dependent STAT5B phosphorylation and subsequent transcriptional activation. DSLET-dependent neurite outgrowth of neuroblastoma cells is also blocked by RGS4 expression, whereas primary cortical cultures of RGS4 knockout mice (RGS4−/−) exhibit enhanced neuronal sprouting after δ-OR activation. Additional studies in adult brain extracts from RGS4−/− mice revealed increased levels of p-STAT5B. Finally, neuronal progenitor cultures from RGS4−/− mice exhibit enhanced proliferation with concomitant increases in the mRNA levels of the anti-apoptotic STAT5B target genes bcl2 and bcl-xl. These observations suggest that RGS4 is implicated in opioid dependent neuronal differentiation and neurite outgrowth via a “non-canonical” signaling pathway regulating STAT5B-directed responses.

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