Myosin light chain kinase activation and calcium sensitization in smooth muscle in vivo

Yusuke Mizuno, Eiji Isotani, Jian Huang, Hailei Ding, James T. Stull, Kristine E. Kamm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Ca2+/calmodulin (CaM)-dependent phosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chain (RLC) in smooth muscle by myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) and dephosphorylation by myosin light chain phosphatase (MLCP) are subject to modulatory cascades that influence the sensitivity of RLC phosphorylation and hence contraction to intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). We designed a CaM-sensor MLCK containing smooth muscle MLCK fused to two fluorescent proteins linked by the MLCK CaM-binding sequence to measure kinase activation in vivo and expressed it specifically in mouse smooth muscle. In phasic bladder muscle, there was greater RLC phosphorylation and force relative to MLCK activation and [Ca 2+]i with carbachol (CCh) compared with KCl treatment, consistent with agonist-dependent inhibition of MLCP. The dependence of force on MLCK activity was nonlinear such that at higher concentrations of CCh, force increased with no change in the net 20% activation of MLCK. A significant but smaller amount of MLCK activation was found during the sustained contractile phase. MLCP inhibition may occur through RhoA/Rhokinase and/or PKC with phosphorylation of myosin phosphatase targeting subunit-1 (MYPT1) and PKC-potentiated phosphatase inhibitor (CPI-17), respectively. CCh treatment, but not KCl, resulted in MYPT1 and CPI-17 phosphorylation. Both Y27632 (Rho-kinase inhibitor) and calphostin C (PKC inhibitor) reduced CCh-dependent force, RLC phosphorylation, and phosphorylation of MYPT1 (Thr694) without changing MLCK activation. Calphostin C, but not Y27632, also reduced CCh-induced phosphorylation of CPI-17. CCh concentration responses showed that phosphorylation of CPI-17 was more sensitive than MYPT1. Thus the onset of agonist-induced contraction in phasic smooth muscle results from the rapid and coordinated activation of MLCK with hierarchical inhibition of MLCP by CPI-17 and MYPT1 phosphorylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C358-C364
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Bladder
  • Calmodulin
  • Myosin light chain phosphatase
  • Myosin regulatory light chain
  • Rho kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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