The reversible phosphorylation of tyrosyl residues in proteins is a cornerstone of the signaling pathways that regulate numerous cellular responses. Protein tyrosine phosphorylation is controlled through the concerted actions of protein-tyrosine kinases and phosphatases. The goal of the present study was to unveil the mechanisms by which protein tyrosine dephosphorylation modulates secretion. The acrosome reaction, a specialized type of regulated exocytosis undergone by sperm, is initiated by calcium and carried out by a number of players, including tyrosine kinases and phosphatases, and fusion-related proteins such as Rab3A, α-SNAP, N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor (NSF), SNAREs, complexin, and synaptotagmin VI. We report here that inducers were unable to elicit the acrosome reaction when permeabilized human sperm were loaded with anti-PTP1B antibodies or with the dominant-negative mutant PTP1B D181A; subsequent introduction of wild type PTP1B or NSF rescued exocytosis. Wild type PTP1B, but not PTP1B D181A, caused cis SNARE complex dissociation during the acrosome reaction through a mechanism involving NSF. Unlike its non-phosphorylated counterpart, recombinant phospho-NSF failed to dissociate SNARE complexes from rat brain membranes. These results strengthen our previous observation that NSF activity is regulated rather than constitutive during sperm exocytosis and indicate that NSF must be dephosphorylated by PTP1B to disassemble SNARE complexes. Interestingly, phospho-NSF served as a substrate for PTP1B in an in vitro assay. Our findings demonstrate that phosphorylation of NSF on tyrosine residues prevents its SNARE complex dissociation activity and establish for the first time a role for PTP1B in the modulation of the membrane fusion machinery
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