Neuromodulatory effect of Gαs- or Gαq-coupled G-protein-coupled receptor on NMDA receptor selectively activates the NMDA receptor/Ca2+/calcineurin/cAMP response element-binding protein-regulated transcriptional coactivator 1 pathway to effectively induce brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in neurons

J Neurosci. 2015 Apr 8;35(14):5606-24. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3650-14.2015.


Although coordinated molecular signaling through excitatory and modulatory neurotransmissions is critical for the induction of immediate early genes (IEGs), which lead to effective changes in synaptic plasticity, the intracellular mechanisms responsible remain obscure. Here we measured the expression of IEGs and used bioluminescence imaging to visualize the expression of Bdnf when GPCRs, major neuromodulator receptors, were stimulated. Stimulation of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP)-specific receptor (PAC1), a Gαs/q-protein-coupled GPCR, with PACAP selectively activated the calcineurin (CN) pathway that is controlled by calcium signals evoked via NMDAR. This signaling pathway then induced the expression of Bdnf and CN-dependent IEGs through the nuclear translocation of CREB-regulated transcriptional coactivator 1 (CRTC1). Intracerebroventricular injection of PACAP and intraperitoneal administration of MK801 in mice demonstrated that functional interactions between PAC1 and NMDAR induced the expression of Bdnf in the brain. Coactivation of NMDAR and PAC1 synergistically induced the expression of Bdnf attributable to selective activation of the CN pathway. This CN pathway-controlled expression of Bdnf was also induced by stimulating other Gαs- or Gαq-coupled GPCRs, such as dopamine D1, adrenaline β, CRF, and neurotensin receptors, either with their cognate agonists or by direct stimulation of the protein kinase A (PKA)/PKC pathway with chemical activators. Thus, the GPCR-induced expression of IEGs in coordination with NMDAR might occur via the selective activation of the CN/CRTC1/CREB pathway under simultaneous excitatory and modulatory synaptic transmissions in neurons if either the Gαs/adenylate cyclase/PKA or Gαq/PLC/PKC-mediated pathway is activated.

Keywords: BDNF; CRTC1; GPCR; NMDAR; PACAP; calcineurin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcineurin / genetics
  • Calcineurin / metabolism*
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / genetics
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Immediate-Early Proteins / genetics
  • Immediate-Early Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide, Type I / genetics
  • Receptors, Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide, Type I / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Crtc1 protein, mouse
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Immediate-Early Proteins
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide, Type I
  • Transcription Factors
  • Calcineurin
  • Calcium