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Evidence supporting the heterogeneity in cAMP and PKA signaling is rapidly accumulating and has been largely attributed to the localization or activity of adenylate cyclases, phosphodiesterases, and A-kinase-anchoring proteins in different cellular subcompartments. However, little attention has been paid to the possibility that, despite homogeneous cAMP levels, a major heterogeneity in cAMP/PKA signaling could be generated by the spatial distribution of the final terminators of this cascade, i.e., the phosphatases. Using FRET-based sensors to monitor cAMP and PKA-dependent phosphorylation in the cytosol and outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM) of primary rat cardiomyocytes, we demonstrate that comparable cAMP increases in these two compartments evoke higher levels of PKA-dependent phosphorylation in the OMM. This difference is most evident for small, physiological increases of cAMP levels and with both OMM-located probes and endogenous OMM proteins. We demonstrate that this disparity depends on differences in the rates of phosphatase-dependent dephosphorylation of PKA targets in the two compartments. Furthermore, we show that the activity of soluble phosphatases attenuates PKA-driven activation of the cAMP response element-binding protein while concurrently enhancing PKA-dependent mitochondrial elongation. We conclude that phosphatases can sculpt functionally distinct cAMP/PKA domains even in the absence of gradients or microdomains of this messenger. We present a model that accounts for these unexpected results in which the degree of PKA-dependent phosphorylation is dictated by both the subcellular distribution of the phosphatases and the different accessibility of membrane-bound and soluble phosphorylated substrates to the cytosolic enzymes.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





E6497 - E6506


PKA, cAMP, mitochondria, phosphatases, signaling, Animals, Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, HeLa Cells, Humans, Membrane Microdomains, Membrane Proteins, Mitochondrial Membranes, Mitochondrial Proteins, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley