Cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase and cellular signaling in the nervous system

J Neurochem. 1997 Feb;68(2):443-56. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.1997.68020443.x.


Nitric oxide (NO) and natriuretic peptide hormones play key roles in a surprising number of neuronal functions, including learning and memory. Most data suggest that they exert converging actions by elevation of intracellular cyclic GMP (cGMP) levels through activation of soluble and particulate guanylyl cyclases. However, cGMP is only the starting point for multiple signaling cascades, which are now beginning to be defined. A primary action of elevated cGMP levels is the stimulation of cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG), the major intracellular receptor protein for cGMP, which phosphorylates substrate proteins to exert its actions. It has become increasingly clear that PKG mediates some of the neuronal effects of cGMP, but how is not yet clear. One clear illustration of this pathway has been reported in striatonigral nerve terminals, where NO mediates phosphorylation of the protein phosphatase regulator dopamine- and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein having a molecular mass of 32,000 (DARPP-32) by PKG. There are remarkably few PKG substrates in brain whose identities are known. A survey of these proteins and those known from other tissues that might also be found in the nervous system reveals the key molecular sites where cGMP and PKG signaling is likely to be regulating neural function. These potential substrates are critically placed to have profound effects on the protein phosphorylation network through regulation of protein phosphatases, intracellular calcium levels, and the function of many ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors. The brain also contains a rich diversity of specific PKG substrates whose identities are not yet known. Their future identification will provide exciting new leads that will permit better understanding of the role of PKG signaling in both basic and higher orders of brain function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nervous System / enzymology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinases