Increasing evidence supports a physiological role of Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaM kinase II) in the secretion of insulin from the pancreatic beta-cell, but the precise sites of action are not known. A role of this enzyme in neuroexocytosis is implicated by its phosphorylation of a vesicle-associated protein, synapsin I. Because of emerging similarities to the neuron with respect to exocytotic mechanisms, the expression and phosphorylation of synapsin I in the beta-cell have been studied. Synapsin I expression in clonal mouse beta-cells (betaTC3) and primary rat islet beta-cells was initially confirmed by immunoblot analysis. By immunoprecipitation, in situ phosphorylation of synapsin I was induced in permeabilized betaTC3 cells within a Ca2+ concentration range shown to activate endogenous CaM kinase II under identical conditions. Proteolytic digests of these immunoprecipitates revealed that calcium primarily induced the increased phosphorylation of sites identified as CaM kinase II-specific and distinct from protein kinase A-specific sites. Immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy verified synapsin I expression in betaTC3 cells and pancreatic slices but demonstrated little if any colocalization of synapsin I with insulin-containing dense core granules. Thus, although this study establishes that synapsin I is a substrate for CaM kinase II in the pancreatic beta-cell, this event appears not to be important for the mobilization of insulin granules.

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