Using intact muscle strips from the bovine carotid artery, the time course of translocation of protein kinase C (PKC) from the cytosol to the membrane fraction was measured in response to various agonists that induce contractile responses. PKC activity was assessed by Ca2+/phospholipid-dependent phosphorylation of histone. Exposure of the muscle strips to phorbol ester (12-deoxyphorbol 13-isobutyrate) induced a rapid and sustained translocation of PKC from the cytosol to the membrane fraction, and a slowly developing but sustained contractile response. Histamine induced a comparable initial translocation of PKC to the membrane which then decreased somewhat to a stable plateau significantly above basal values. Histamine also led to a rapid and sustained increase in tension. Angiotensin I, which caused a rapid but transient contraction, induced a rapid initial translocation of PKC to the membrane. The membrane-associated PKC then declined to a stable plateau significantly lower than that seen after a histamine-induced response, and only slightly above the basal value. Endothelin, which induced a sustained contraction, caused a sustained translocation of PKC from the cytosol to the membrane. In contrast, although exposure to 35 mM-KCl induced a rapid and sustained contraction, it caused only a transient translocation of PKC; the membrane-associated PKC returned to its basal value within 20 min. These results demonstrate that PKC in intact smooth muscle can be rapidly translocated to the membrane and remains membrane-bound during sustained phorbol ester- or agonist-induced contractions, but that such a sustained translocation of PKC does not occur during prolonged stimulation with KCl.

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