Dynamics of Elongation Factor 2 Kinase Regulation in Cortical Neurons in Response to Synaptic Activity

J. W. Kenney, O. Sorokina, M. Genheden, A. Sorokin, J. D. Armstrong, C. G. Proud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rapid regulation of cell signaling in response to calcium in neurons is essential for real-time processing of large amounts of information in the brain. A vital regulatory component, and one of the most energy-intensive biochemical processes in cells, is the elongation phase of mRNA translation, which is controlled by the Ca2+/CaM-dependent elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K). However, little is known about the dynamics of eEF2K regulation in neurons despite its established role in learning and synaptic plasticity. To explore eEF2K dynamics in depth, we stimulated synaptic activity in mouse primary cortical neurons. We find that synaptic activity results in a rapid, but transient, increase in eEF2K activity that is regulated by a combination of AMPA and NMDA-type glutamate receptors and the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathways. We then used computational modeling to test the hypothesis that considering Ca2+-coordinated MEK/ERK, mTORC1, and eEF2k activation is sufficient to describe the observed eEF2K dynamics. Although such a model could partially fit the empirical findings, it also suggested that a crucial positive regulator of eEF2K was also necessary. Through additional modeling and empirical evidence, we demonstrate that AMP kinase (AMPK) is also an important regulator of synaptic activity-driven eEF2K dynamics in neurons. Our combined modeling and experimental findings provide the first evidence that it is necessary to consider the combined interactions of Ca2+ with MEK/ERK, mTORC1, and AMPK to adequately explain eEF2K regulation in neurons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3034-3047
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2015


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