cAMP analogues such as dibutyryl cAMP (dBcAMP) have been shown to induce the formation of processes in cultured primary astrocytes. We observe that the processes form by elongation as well as the previously reported retraction of cytoplasm around cytoskeletal elements. The most prominent cytoskeletal change that occurs in response to dBcAMP is a rearrangement of actin filaments characterized by a loss of cortical F-actin staining and the appearance of actin filament staining at the tips of the processes. If cortical actin filaments are disrupted with dihydrocytochalasin B, processes form that are similar to those induced by dBcAMP suggesting that the disruption of the cortical actin network is the pivotal step in process formation. Reorganization of the actin filament network in response to cAMP is accompanied by a decrease in phosphate incorporation into the regulatory light chain of myosin (MLC). Two selective inhibitors of MLC kinase (MLCK), ML-9 and KT5926, as well as a calmodulin antagonist (W7), which would also inhibit MLCK activation, all induce astrocytic process growth implicating MLCK as a control point in process initiation. We also found that dBcAMP and ML-9 both cause a decrease in the phosphate content of actin depolymerizing factor, suggesting that this protein and myosin light chain are the effectors of actin cytoskeleton reorganization and process growth.

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