Melatonin increases neurite formation in N1E-115 cells through microtubule enlargement elicited by calmodulin antagonism and vimentin intermediate filament reorganization caused by protein kinase C (PKC) activation. Microfilament rearrangement is also a necessary process in growth cone formation during neurite outgrowth. In this work, we studied the effect of melatonin on microfilament rearrangements present at early stages of neurite formation and the possible participation of PKC and the Rho-associated kinase (ROCK), which is a downstream kinase in the PKC signaling pathway. The results showed that 1 nm melatonin increased both the number of cells with filopodia and with long neurites. Similar results were obtained with the PKC activator phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA). Both melatonin and PMA increased the quantity of filamentous actin. In contrast, the PKC inhibitor bisindolylmaleimide abolished microfilament organization elicited by either melatonin or PMA, while the Rho inhibitor C3, or the ROCK inhibitor Y27632, abolished the bipolar neurite morphology of N1E-115 cells. Instead, these inhibitors prompted neurite ramification. ROCK activity measured in whole cell extracts and in N1E-115 cells was increased in the presence of melatonin and PMA. The results indicate that melatonin increases the number of cells with immature neurites and suggest that these neurites can be susceptible to differentiation by incoming extracellular signals. Data also indicate that PKC and ROCK are involved at initial stages of neurite formation in the mechanism by which melatonin recruits cells for later differentiation.
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