Protease-activated receptors (PARs) are newly identified members of the superfamily of G-protein-coupled receptors that initiate cell signaling by the proteolytic activity of extracellular serine proteases. Certain proteases are believed to be involved in development and repair processes and most likely regulate multiple functions of the CNS by activating PARs. Three members of this family (PAR-1, PAR-3, and PAR-4) are considered thrombin receptors, whereas PAR-2 is activated by trypsin. In the present study, using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), immunocytochemistry, and Ca(2+) mobilization studies, we demonstrate that PAR-1, PAR-2, PAR-3, and PAR-4 are functionally co-expressed in cultured rat astrocytes. Short-term stimulation of astrocytes with thrombin, trypsin, and peptides corresponding to the tethered ligand domains of PAR-1, PAR-2, PAR-3, and PAR-4 induced a transient rise of [Ca(2+)](i) in cultured astrocytes. In studying calcium signaling, based on receptor desensitization, and using an antagonist of thrombin receptor PAR-1, we provide evidence that the thrombin-induced [Ca(2+)](i) response in astrocytes in addition to PAR-1 stimulation, involves also stimulation of PAR-3 and PAR-4. Trypsin, in addition to PAR-2, can also activate PAR-1 and PAR-4. Furthermore we find that activation of PAR-1, and PAR-2 induces proliferation of astrocytes while PAR-4 activation exerts toxic effects. This study is the first to show that (1) cultured astrocytes functionally express PAR-3 and PAR-4 together with PAR-1 and PAR-2; (2) PAR-3-activating peptide (TFRGAP) is effective in eliciting Ca(2+) signaling; and (3) activation of different PARs leads to distinct downstream effects.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.