Brain-specific serine/threonine-protein kinase 1 is a substrate of protein kinase C epsilon involved in sex-specific ethanol and anxiety phenotypes

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Addiction Biology


Protein kinase C epsilon (PKCε) regulates behavioural responses to ethanol and plays a role in anxiety-like behaviour, but knowledge is limited on downstream substrates of PKCε that contribute to these behaviours. We recently identified brain-specific serine/threonine-protein kinase 1 (BRSK1) as a substrate of PKCε. Here, we test the hypothesis that BRSK1 mediates responses to ethanol and anxiety-like behaviours that are also PKCε dependent. We used in vitro kinase assays to further validate BRSK1 as a substrate of PKCε and used Brsk1−/− mice to assess the role of BRSK1 in ethanol- and anxiety-related behaviours and in physiological responses to ethanol. We found that BRSK1 is phosphorylated by PKCε at a residue identified in a chemical genetic screen of PKCε substrates in mouse brain. Like Prkce−/− mice, male and female Brsk1−/− mice were more sensitive than wild-type to the acute sedative-hypnotic effect of alcohol. Unlike Prkce−/− mice, Brsk1−/− mice responded like wild-type to ataxic doses of ethanol. Although in Prkce−/− mice ethanol consumption and reward are reduced in both sexes, they were reduced only in female Brsk1−/− mice. Ex vivo slice electrophysiology revealed that ethanol-induced facilitation of GABA release in the central amygdala was absent in male Brsk1−/− mice similar to findings in male Prkce−/− mice. Collectively, these results indicate that BRSK1 is a target of PKCε that mediates some PKCε-dependent responses to ethanol in a sex-specific manner and plays a role distinct from PKCε in anxiety-like behaviour.

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