The shape changes and membrane ruffling that accompany neutrophil activation are dependent on the assembly and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton, the molecular basis of which remains to be clarified. A role of protein kinase C (PKC) has been postulated because neutrophil activation, with the attendant shape and membrane ruffling changes, can be initiated by phorbol esters, known activators of PKC. It has become apparent, however, that multiple isoforms of PKC with differing substrate specificities exist. To reassess the role of PKC in cytoskeletal reorganization, we compared the effects of diacylglycerol analogs and of PKC antagonists on kinase activity and on actin assembly in human neutrophils. Ruffling of the plasma membrane was assessed by scanning EM, and spatial redistribution of filamentous (F)-actin was assessed by scanning confocal microscopy. Staining with NBD-phallacidin and incorporation of actin into the Triton X-100-insoluble ("cytoskeletal") fraction were used to quantify the formation of (F)-actin. [32P]ATP was used to detect protein phosphorylation in electroporated cells. Exposure of neutrophils to 4 beta-PMA (an activator of PKC) induced protein phosphorylation, membrane ruffling, and assembly and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton, whereas the 4a-isomer, which is inactive towards PKC, failed to produce any of these changes. Moreover, 1,2-dioctanoylglycerol, mezerein, and 3-(N-acetylamino)-5-(N-decyl-N-methylamino)-benzyl alcohol, which are nonphorbol activators of PKC, also promoted actin assembly. Although these effects were consistent with a role of PKC, the following observations suggested that stimulation of conventional isoforms of the kinase were not directly responsible for actin assembly: (a) Okadaic acid, an inhibitor of phosphatases 1 and 2A, potentiated PMA-induced protein phosphorylation, but not actin assembly; and (b) PMA-induced actin assembly and membrane ruffling were not prevented by the conventional PKC inhibitors 1-(5-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-2-methylpiperazine, staurosporine, calphostin C, or sphingosine at concentrations that precluded PMA-induced protein phosphorylation and superoxide production. On the other hand, PMA-induced actin assembly was inhibited by long-chain fatty acid coenzyme A esters, known inhibitors of nuclear PKC (nPKC). We conclude that PMA-induced actin assembly is unlikely to be mediated by the conventional isoforms of PKC, but may be mediated by novel isoforms of the kinase such as nPKC.

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