Neurotensin (NT) is a neuropeptide that is important in a variety of biological processes such as signal transduction and cell growth. NT effects are mediated by a single class of cell-surface receptors, known as neurotensin receptors (NTRs), which exhibit structural features of the G-protein-coupled receptors superfamily. We investigated NTR signalling properties with Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells stably transformed with human NTR (hNTR). First, we showed that NTR stimulation by NT induced the activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in time- and dose-dependent manners. Both p42 and p44 MAPK isoforms were retarded in gel-shift assays, which was consistent with their activation by phosphorylation. In addition we showed that NT caused a prolonged activation of MAPK as measured by in-gel kinase assay. Secondly, we demonstrated that NT induced the expression of the growth-related gene Krox-24 at the protein level, as assessed by Western-blot analysis, and at the transcriptional level, as demonstrated in CHO cells transfected with hNTR and a reporter gene for Krox-24. Activation of MAPK and induction of Krox-24 were both prevented by the NTR antagonist SR 48692, confirming the specific action on NTR. Furthermore we observed coupling of NTR to a mitogenic pathway and Krox-24 induction in the human adenocarcinoma cell line HT29, which naturally expresses NTRs. Considering coupling pathways between NTR stimulation and MAPK activation, we observed a partial inhibition by pertussis toxin (PTX) and a complete blockade by the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor GF 109203X. Taken together, these results suggest that (1) stimulation of NTR activates the MAPK pathway by mechanisms involving dual coupling to both PTX-sensitive and PTX-insensitive G-proteins as well as PKC activation, and (2) these effects are associated with the induction of Krox-24, which might be a target of MAPK effector.

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