Characterization of the phosphorylation sites of the squid (Loligo pealei) high-molecular-weight neurofilament protein from giant axon axoplasm. Academic Article uri icon


  • Axonal caliber in vertebrates is attributed, in part, to the extensive phosphorylation of NFM and NFH C-terminal tail domain KSP repeats by proline-directed kinases. The squid giant axon, primarily involved in rapid impulse conduction during jet propulsion motility, is enriched in squid-specific neurofilaments, particularly the highly phosphorylated NF-220. Of the 228 serine-threonine candidate phosphate acceptor sites in the NF-220 tail domain (residues 401-1220), 82 are found in numerous repeats of three different motifs SAR/K, SEK/R, K/RSP, with 62 of these tightly clustered in the C-terminal repeat segment (residues 840-1160). Characterization of the in vivo NF-220 phosphorylated sites should provide clues as to the relevant kinases. To characterize these sites, proteolytic digests of NF-220 were analyzed by a combination of HPLC, electrospray tandem mass spectrometry and database searching. A total of 53 phosphorylation sites were characterized, with 47 clustered in the C-terminal repeat segment (residues 840-1160), representing 76% (47/62) of the total acceptor sites in the region. As in mammalian NFH, approximately 64% of the K/RSP sites (14/22) in this region were found to be phosphorylated implicating proline-directed kinases. Significantly, 78% of serines (31/40) in the KAES*EK and EKS*ARSP motifs were also phosphorylated suggesting that non proline-directed kinases such as CKI may also be involved. This is consistent with previous studies showing that CKI is the principal kinase associated with axoplasmic NF preparations. It also suggests that phosphorylation of large macromolecules with multiple phospho-sites requires sequential phosphorylation by several kinases.

publication date

  • February 2001