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It had long been one of the crucial questions in muscle physiology how glycogenolysis is regulated in connection with muscle contraction, when we found the answer to this question in the last half of the 1960s. By that time, the two principal currents of muscle physiology, namely, the metabolic flow starting from glycogen and the mechanisms of muscle contraction, had already been clarified at the molecular level thanks to our senior researchers. Thus, the final question we had to answer was how to connect these two currents. We found that low concentrations of Ca ions (10(-7)-10(-4) M) released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum for the regulation of muscle contraction simultaneously reversibly activate phosphorylase kinase, the enzyme regulating glycogenolysis. Moreover, we found that adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cyclic AMP), which is already known to activate muscle phosphorylase kinase, is not effective in the absence of such concentrations of Ca ions. Thus, cyclic AMP is not effective by itself alone and only modifies the activation process in the presence of Ca ions (at that time, cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase had not yet been identified). After a while, it turned out that our works have not only provided the solution to the above problem on muscle physiology, but have also been considered as the first report of Ca-dependent protein phosphorylation, which is one of the central problems in current cell biology. Phosphorylase kinase is the first protein kinase to phosphorylate a protein resulting in the change in the function of the phosphorylated protein, as shown by Krebs and Fischer. Our works further showed that this protein kinase is regulated in a Ca-dependent manner. Accordingly, our works introduced the concept of low concentrations of Ca ions, which were first identified as the regulatory substance of muscle contraction, to the vast field of Ca biology including signal transduction.


Eijiro Ozawa. Regulation of phosphorylase kinase by low concentrations of Ca ions upon muscle contraction: the connection between metabolism and muscle contraction and the connection between muscle physiology and Ca-dependent signal transduction. Proceedings of the Japan Academy. Series B, Physical and biological sciences. 2011;87(8):486-508

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PMID: 21986313

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