Phosphorylation of chemoattractant receptors regulates chemotaxis, actin reorganization and signal relay

J Cell Sci. 2013 Oct 15;126(Pt 20):4614-26. doi: 10.1242/jcs.122952. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Migratory cells, including mammalian leukocytes and Dictyostelium, use G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling to regulate MAPK/ERK, PI3K, TORC2/AKT, adenylyl cyclase and actin polymerization, which collectively direct chemotaxis. Upon ligand binding, mammalian GPCRs are phosphorylated at cytoplasmic residues, uncoupling G-protein pathways, but activating other pathways. However, connections between GPCR phosphorylation and chemotaxis are unclear. In developing Dictyostelium, secreted cAMP serves as a chemoattractant, with extracellular cAMP propagated as oscillating waves to ensure directional migratory signals. cAMP oscillations derive from transient excitatory responses of adenylyl cyclase, which then rapidly adapts. We have studied chemotactic signaling in Dictyostelium that express non-phosphorylatable cAMP receptors and show through chemotaxis modeling, single-cell FRET imaging, pure and chimeric population wavelet quantification, biochemical analyses and TIRF microscopy, that receptor phosphorylation is required to regulate adenylyl cyclase adaptation, long-range oscillatory cAMP wave production and cytoskeletal actin response. Phosphorylation defects thus promote hyperactive actin polymerization at the cell periphery, misdirected pseudopodia and the loss of directional chemotaxis. Our data indicate that chemoattractant receptor phosphorylation is required to co-regulate essential pathways for migratory cell polarization and chemotaxis. Our results significantly extend the understanding of the function of GPCR phosphorylation, providing strong evidence that this evolutionarily conserved mechanism is required in a signal attenuation pathway that is necessary to maintain persistent directional movement of Dictyostelium, neutrophils and other migratory cells.

Keywords: AKT; ERK2; GPCR; Heterotrimeric G proteins; Oscillations; PI3K; TORC2; cAMP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Dictyostelium / cytology
  • Dictyostelium / metabolism*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cyclic AMP / metabolism*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Receptors, Cyclic AMP
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • cyclic AMP receptor cAR1
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1