Kinases play fundamental roles in the brain. Through complex signaling pathways, kinases regulate the strength of protein:protein interactions (PPI) influencing cell cycle, signal transduction, and electrical activity of neurons. Changes induced by kinases on neuronal excitability, synaptic plasticity and brain connectivity are linked to complex brain disorders, but the molecular mechanisms underlying these cellular events remain for the most part elusive. To further our understanding of brain disease, new methods for rapidly surveying kinase pathways in the cellular context are needed. The bioluminescence-based luciferase complementation assay (LCA) is a powerful, versatile toolkit for the exploration of PPI. LCA relies on the complementation of two firefly luciferase protein fragments that are functionally reconstituted into the full luciferase enzyme by two interacting binding partners. Here, we applied LCA in live cells to assay 12 kinase pathways as regulators of the PPI complex formed by the voltage-gated sodium channel, Nav1.6, a transmembrane ion channel that elicits the action potential in neurons and mediates synaptic transmission, and its multivalent accessory protein, the fibroblast growth factor 14 (FGF14). Through extensive dose-dependent validations of structurally-diverse kinase inhibitors and hierarchical clustering, we identified the PI3K/Akt pathway, the cell-cycle regulator Wee1 kinase, and protein kinase C (PKC) as prospective regulatory nodes of neuronal excitability through modulation of the FGF14:Nav1.6 complex. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis shows convergence of these pathways on glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) and functional assays demonstrate that inhibition of GSK3 impairs excitability of hippocampal neurons. This combined approach provides a versatile toolkit for rapidly surveying PPI signaling, allowing the discovery of new modular pathways centered on GSK3 that might be the basis for functional alterations between the normal and diseased brain.
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