Teaching ResourceCell Biology

The cAMP Signal Transduction Pathway

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Science Signaling  27 Apr 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 119, pp. tr2
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3119tr2


This resource provides and describes two animated lessons that illustrate the adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate (cAMP) signal transduction pathway. They are designed for any collegiate-level course that presents the basic steps of the prototypical pathway. Courses that might employ these animations include Introductory Biology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology.


These animated lessons illustrate adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate (cAMP) signal transduction pathways (1, 2, 3). These pathways regulate numerous cellular and physiologic processes, such as carbohydrate metabolism, gene expression, heart contraction, folliculogenesis, and cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) activity. Most forms of life, from prokaryotes to plants and animals, have some form of these pathways. The animations present the prototypical pathway of animals, showing steps that are common to cAMP signaling in multiple species and in many tissues (1). These steps are traced from ligands to downstream substrates. Ligands such as epinephrine and glucagon bind and activate heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide–binding protein (G protein)–coupled receptors. This leads to release of the Gα subunit, which activates adenylyl cyclase (AC). AC produces cAMP, which binds the regulatory subunits of protein kinase A (PKA), allowing release and activation of the catalytic subunits of PKA. These subunits then phosphorylate downstream substrates such as troponin I and glycogen phosphorylase kinase.

These teaching resources are intended to be used as educational tools and may be appropriate for any collegiate-level course that describes these vital regulatory pathways (4). Courses that might use these animations include Introductory Biology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology. Two editions of the lesson are provided. The first presents an overview of the pathway in the form of a flowchart (Fig. 1). The second traces the pathway step by step, focusing on interactions between individual effectors. With each edition users can toggle between two modes. In the “labeled” mode, titles, labels, and explanatory text automatically appear with each effector. In the “cursor” mode, labels only appear when the user moves the mouse cursor over the effectors. In some cases, explanatory text pops up when the user selects an effector. The labeled mode is designed for lecture or self-guided study, whereas the cursor mode is particularly conducive to self-guided study. Students can use the cursor mode to quiz themselves by looking at an effector, recalling its name, then passing the cursor over the effector to see if they recalled correctly.

Fig. 1

A static image from the interactive flowchart edition of the cAMP signaling pathway animation. View animations at http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/3/119/tr2/DC1.

Educational Details

Learning Resource Type: Animation, image

Context: Undergraduate upper division, graduate, professional (degree program)

Intended Users: Teacher, learner

Intended Educational Use: Teach, learn

Discipline: Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Education, Molecular Biology, Pharmacology, Physiology

Keywords: adenylyl cyclase, AC, G protein–coupled receptor, GPCR, G proteins, protein kinase A, PKA, phosphodiesterase, seven transmembrane receptor, 7TMR


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