In cAMP-Protein Kinase A (PKA) signaling, A-kinase anchoring protein scaffolds assemble PKA in close proximity to phosphodiesterases (PDE), kinase-substrates to form signaling islands or ‘signalosomes’. In its basal state, inactive PKA holoenzyme (R2:C2) is activated by binding of cAMP to regulatory (R)-subunits leading to dissociation of active catalytic (C)-subunits. PDEs hydrolyze cAMP-bound to the R-subunits to generate 5'-AMP for termination and resetting the cAMP signaling. Mechanistic basis for cAMP signaling has been derived primarily by focusing on the proteins in isolation. Here, we set out to simulate cAMP signaling activation-termination cycles in a signalosome-like environment with PDEs and PKA subunits in close proximity to each other. Using a combination of fluorescence polarization and amide-hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry with regulatory (RIα), C-subunit (Cα) and PDE8 catalytic domain, we have tracked movement of cAMP through activation-termination cycles. cAMP signaling operates as a continuum of four phases: 1) Activation and dissociation of PKA into R- and C-subunits by cAMP and facilitated by substrate 2) PDE recruitment to R-subunits 3) Hydrolysis of cAMP to 5'-AMP 4) Reassociation of C-subunit to 5'-AMP-bound-RIα in the presence of ATP to reset cAMP signaling to form the inactive PKA holoenzyme. Our results demonstrate that 5'-AMP is not merely a passive hydrolysis end-product of PDE action. A ‘ligand-free’ state R subunit does not exist in signalosomes as previously assumed. Instead the R-subunit toggles between cAMP- or 5'-AMP bound forms. This highlights, for the first time, the importance of 5'-AMP in promoting adaptation and uncovers adenylate control in cAMP signaling.

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