Nuclear cGMP-dependent kinase regulates gene expression via activity-dependent recruitment of a conserved histone deacetylase complex.
Elevation of the second messenger cGMP by nitric oxide (NO) activates the cGMP-dependent protein kinase PKG, which is key in regulating cardiovascular, intestinal, and neuronal functions in mammals. The NO-cGMP-PKG signaling pathway is also a major therapeutic target for cardiovascular and male reproductive diseases. Despite widespread effects of PKG activation, few molecular targets of PKG are known. We study how EGL-4, the Caenorhabditis elegans PKG ortholog, modulates foraging behavior and egg-laying and seeks the downstream effectors of EGL-4 activity. Using a combination of unbiased forward genetic screen and proteomic analysis, we have identified a conserved SAEG-1/SAEG-2/HDA-2 histone deacetylase complex that is specifically recruited by activated nuclear EGL-4. Gene expression profiling by microarrays revealed >40 genes that are sensitive to EGL-4 activity in a SAEG-1-dependent manner. We present evidence that EGL-4 controls egg laying via one of these genes, Y45F10C.2, which encodes a novel protein that is expressed exclusively in the uterine epithelium. Our results indicate that, in addition to cytoplasmic functions, active EGL-4/PKG acts in the nucleus via a conserved Class I histone deacetylase complex to regulate gene expression pertinent to behavioral and physiological responses to cGMP. We also identify transcriptional targets of EGL-4 that carry out discrete components of the physiological response.