Signaling through myosin light chain kinase in smooth muscles

Ning Gao, Jian Huang, Weiqi He, Minsheng Zhu, Kristine E. Kamm, James T. Stull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) phosphorylates smooth muscle myosin regulatory light chain (RLC) to initiate contraction. We used a tamoxifen-activated, smooth muscle-specific inactivation ofMLCK expression in adult mice to determine whether MLCK was differentially limiting in distinct smooth muscles.A50% decrease inMLCK in urinary bladder smooth muscle had no effect on RLC phosphorylation or on contractile responses, whereas an 80% decrease resulted in only a 20% decrease in RLC phosphorylation and contractile responses to the muscarinic agonist carbachol. Phosphorylation of the myosin light chain phosphatase regulatory subunit MYPT1 at Thr-696 and Thr-853 and the inhibitor protein CPI-17 were also stimulated with carbachol. These results are consistent with the previous findings that activation of a small fraction of MLCK by limiting amounts of free Ca2+/ calmodulin combined with myosin light chain phosphatase inhibition is sufficient for robust RLC phosphorylation and contractile responses in bladder smooth muscle. In contrast, a 50% decrease inMLCK in aortic smooth muscle resulted in 40% inhibition of RLC phosphorylation and aorta contractile responses, whereas a 90% decrease profoundly inhibited both responses. Thus, MLCK content is limiting for contraction in aortic smooth muscle. Phosphorylation of CPI-17 and MYPT1 at Thr-696 and Thr-853 were also stimulated with phenylephrine but significantly less than in bladder tissue. These results indicate differential contributions of MLCK to signaling. Limiting MLCK activity combined with modest Ca 2+ sensitization responses provide insights into how haploinsufficiency of MLCK may result in contractile dysfunction in vivo, leading to dissections of human thoracic aorta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7596-7605
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 15 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Signaling through myosin light chain kinase in smooth muscles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this