Regulation of photoreceptor phosphodiesterase (PDE6) by phosphorylation of its inhibitory gamma subunit re-evaluated

Michael J. Paglia, University of New Hampshire
Hongmei Mou, University of New Hampshire
Rick H. Cote, University of New Hampshire


Phosphorylation of the inhibitory gamma subunit (Pgamma) of rod cGMP phosphodiesterase (PDE6) has been reported to turn off visual excitation without the requirement for inactivation of the photoreceptor G-protein transducin. We evaluated the significance of Pgamma phosphorylation for PDE6 regulation by preparing Pgamma stoichiometrically phosphorylated at Thr(22) or at Thr(35). Phosphorylation of Pgamma at either residue caused a minor decrease-not the previously reported increase-in the ability of Pgamma to inhibit catalysis at the active site of purified PDE6 catalytic dimers. Likewise, Pgamma phosphorylation had little effect on its potency to inhibit transducin-activated PDE6 depleted of its endogenous Pgamma subunits. The strength of Pgamma interaction with the regulatory GAF domain of PDE6 was reduced severalfold upon Pgamma phosphorylation at Thr(22) (but not Thr(35)), as judged by allosteric changes in cGMP binding to these noncatalytic sites on the enzyme (Mou, H., and Cote, R. H. (2001) J. Biol. Chem. 276, 27527-27534). In contrast, the effects of Pgamma phosphorylation on its interactions with activated transducin were much more pronounced. Phosphorylation of Pgamma at either Thr(22) or Thr(35) greatly diminished its ability to bind activated transducin, consistent with earlier work. In situ phosphorylation of Pgamma by endogenous rod outer segment kinases was enhanced severalfold upon light activation, but only similar to10% of the endogenous Pgamma was phosphorylated. This is attributed to Pgamma being a poor substrate for protein kinases when associated with the PDE6 holoenzyme. We conclude that, contrary to previous reports, Pgamma phosphorylation at either Thr(22) or Thr(35) modestly weakens its direct interactions with PDE6. However, Pgamma phosphorylation subsequent to its dissociation from PDE6 is likely to abolish its binding to activated transducin and may serve to make phosphorylated Pgamma available to regulate other signal transduction pathways (e.g. mitogen-activated protein kinase; Wan, K. F., Sambi, B. S., Frame, M., Tate, R., and Pyne, N. J. (2001) J. Biol. Chem. 276, 37802-37808) in photoreceptor cells.