In vertebrate photoreceptors, photoexcited rhodopsin interacts with the G protein transducin, causing it to bind GTP and stimulate the enzyme cGMP phosphodiesterase. The rapid termination of the active state of this pathway is dependent upon a photoreceptor-specific regulator of G protein signaling RGS9-1 that serves as a GTPase activating protein (GAP) for transducin. Here, we show that, in preparations of photoreceptor outer segments (OS), RGS9-1 is readily phosphorylated by an endogenous Ser/Thr protein kinase. Protein kinase C and MAP kinase inhibitors reduced labeling by about 30%, while CDK5 and CaMK II inhibitors had no effect. cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) inhibitor H89 reduced RGS9-1 labeling by more than 90%, while dibutyryl-cAMP stimulated it 3-fold, implicating PKA as the major kinase responsible for RGS9-1 phosphorylation in OS. RGS9-1 belongs to an RGS subfamily also including RGS6, RGS7, and RGS11, which exist as heterodimers with the G protein β subunit Gβ5. Phosphorylated RGS9-1 remains associated with Gβ5L, a photoreceptor-specific splice form, which itself was not phosphorylated. RGS9-1 immunoprecipitated from OS was in vitro phosphorylated by exogenous PKA. The PKA catalytic subunit could also phosphorylate recombinant RGS9-1, and mutational analysis localized phosphorylation sites to Ser427 and Ser428. Substitution of these residues for Glu, to mimic phosphorylation, resulted in a reduction of the GAP activity of RGS9-1. In OS, RGS9-1 phosphorylation required the presence of free Ca2+ ions and was inhibited by light, suggesting that RGS9-1 phosphorylation could be one of the mechanisms mediating a stronger photoresponse in dark-adapted cells.
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