Dopamine type 1 receptor (D1R) signaling activates protein kinase A (PKA), which then activates mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) through Rap1, in striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). MAPK plays a pivotal role in reward-related behavior through the activation of certain transcription factors. How D1R signaling regulates behavior through transcription factors remains largely unknown. CREB-binding protein (CBP) promotes transcription through hundreds of different transcription factors and is also important for reward-related behavior. To identify transcription factors regulated by dopamine signaling in MSNs, we performed a phosphoproteomic analysis using affinity beads coated with CBP. We obtained approximately 40 novel candidate proteins in the striatum of the C57BL/6 mouse brain after cocaine administration. Among them, the megakaryoblastic leukemia-2 (MKL2) protein, a transcriptional coactivator of serum response factor (SRF), was our focus. We found that the interaction between CBP and MKL2 was increased by cocaine administration. Additionally, MKL2, CBP and SRF formed a ternary complex in vivo. The C-terminal domain of MKL2 interacted with CBP-KIX and was phosphorylated by MAPK in COS7 cells. The activation of PKA-MAPK signaling induced the nuclear localization of MKL2 and increased SRF-dependent transcriptional activity in neurons. These results demonstrate that dopamine signaling regulates the interaction of MKL2 with CBP in a phosphorylation-dependent manner and thereby controls SRF-dependent gene expression. (Figure presented.). Cover Image for this issue: https://doi.org/10.1111/jnc.15067.
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