Research article

Agonist-induced changes in the phosphorylation of the myosin- binding subunit of myosin light chain phosphatase and CPI17, two regulatory factors of myosin light chain phosphatase, in smooth muscle

Naohisa NIIRO, Yasuhiko KOGA, Mitsuo IKEBE


The inhibition of myosin light chain phosphatase (MLCP) enhances smooth muscle contraction at a constant [Ca2+]. There are two components, myosin-binding subunit of MLCP (MBS) and CPI17, thought to be responsible for the inhibition of MLCP by external stimuli. The phosphorylation of MBS at Thr-641 and of CPI17 at Thr-38 inhibits the MLCP activity in vitro. Here we determined the changes in the phosphorylation of MBS and CPI17 after agonist stimulation in intact as well as permeabilized smooth muscle strips using phosphorylation-site-specific antibodies as probes. The CPI17 phosphorylation transiently increased after agonist stimulation in both α-toxin skinned and intact fibres. The time course of the increase in CPI17 phosphorylation after stimulation correlated with the increase in myosin regulatory light chain (MLC) phosphorylation. The increase in CPI17 phosphorylation was significantly diminished by Y27632, a Rho kinase inhibitor, and GF109203x, a protein kinase C inhibitor, suggesting that both the protein kinase C and Rho kinase pathways influence the change in CPI17 phosphorylation. On the other hand, a significant level of MBS phosphorylation at Thr-641, an inhibitory site, was observed in the resting state for both skinned and intact fibres and the agonist stimulation did not significantly alter the MBS phosphorylation level at Thr-641. While the removal of the agonist markedly decreased MLC phosphorylation and induced relaxation, the phosphorylation of MBS was unchanged, while CPI17 phosphorylation markedly diminished. These results strongly suggest that the phosphorylation of CPI17 plays a more significant role in the agonist-induced increase in myosin phosphorylation and contraction of smooth muscle than MBS phosphorylation in the Ca2+-independent activation mechanism of smooth muscle contraction.

  • histamine
  • myosin phosphorylation
  • protein kinase C
  • Rho-associated kinase
  • smooth muscle contraction


  • Abbreviations used: DTT, dithiothreitol; ET-1, endothelin-1; GDP[β-S], guanosine 5′-[β-thio]diphosphate; GTP[S], guanosine 5′-[γ-thio]triphosphate; MBS, myosin-binding subunit of myosin light chain phosphatase; MLC, myosin regulatory light chain; MLCK, myosin light chain kinase; MLCP, myosin light chain phosphatase; PDBu, phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate; PKC, protein kinase C; β-ME, β-mercaptoethanol; PSS, physiological saline solution.