NMDA receptor-dependent dephosphorylation of serine 387 in Argonaute 2 increases its degradation and affects dendritic spine density and maturation. [Neurobiology]

May 7th, 2018 by Nicolas Paradis-Isler, Jannic Boehm

Argonaute (AGO) proteins are essential components of the microRNA (miRNA) pathway. AGO proteins are loaded with miRNAs to target mRNAs and thereby regulate mRNA stability and protein translation. As such, AGO proteins are important actors in controlling local protein synthesis, for instance, at dendritic spines and synapses. Although miRNA-mediated regulation of dendritic mRNAs has become a focus of intense interest over the past years, the mechanisms regulating neuronal AGO proteins remain largely unknown. Here, using rat hippocampal neurons, we report that dendritic Ago2 is downregulated by the proteasome upon NMDA receptor activation. We found that Ser-387 in Ago2 is dephosphorylated upon NMDA treatment and that this dephosphorylation precedes Ago2 degradation. Expressing Ser-387 phosphorylation-deficient or phosphomimetic Ago2 in neurons, we observed that this phosphorylation site is involved in modulating dendritic spine morphology and postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95) expression in spines. Collectively, our results point toward a signaling pathway linking NMDA receptor-dependent Ago2 dephosphorylation and turnover to postsynaptic structural changes. They support a model in which NMDA receptor-mediated dephosphorylation of Ago2 and Ago2 turnover contribute to the de-repression of mRNAs involved in spine growth and maturation.
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