Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of the catecholamines dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. In response to short term stimuli TH activity is primarily controlled by phosphorylation of serine 40. We have previously shown that phosphorylation of serine 19 in TH can indirectly activate TH via a hierarchical mechanism by increasing the rate of phosphorylation of serine 40. Here we show that phosphorylation of serine 31 in rat TH increases the rate of serine 40 phosphorylation 9-fold in vitro. Phosphorylation of serine 31 in intact bovine chromaffin cells potentiated the forskolin-induced increase in serine 40 phosphorylation and TH activity more than 2-fold. Humans are unique in that they contain four TH isoforms but to date no significant differences have been shown in the regulation of these isoforms. Phosphorylation of the human TH isoform 1 at serine 31 by extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) also produced a 9-fold increase in the rate of phosphorylation of serine 40, whereas little effect was seen in the TH isoforms 3 and 4. ERK did not phosphorylate human TH isoform 2. The effect of serine 19 phosphorylation on serine 40 (44 in TH2) phosphorylation is stronger in TH2 than in TH1. Thus hierarchical phosphorylation provides a mechanism whereby the two major human TH isoforms (1 and 2) can be differentially regulated with only isoform 1 responding to the ERK pathway, whereas isoform 2 is more sensitive to calcium-mediated events.
Journal of Biological Chemistry Vol. 281, Issue 26, p. 17644-17651