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Concept: G protein-coupled receptor


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) play essential roles in various physiological processes, and are widely targeted by pharmaceutical drugs. Despite their importance, studying GPCRs has been problematic due to difficulties in isolating large quantities of these membrane proteins in forms that retain their ligand binding capabilities. Creating water-soluble variants of GPCRs by mutating the exterior, transmembrane residues provides a potential method to overcome these difficulties. Here we present the first study involving the computational design, expression and characterization of water-soluble variant of a human GPCR, the human mu opioid receptor (MUR), which is involved in pain and addiction. An atomistic structure of the transmembrane domain was built using comparative (homology) modeling and known GPCR structures. This structure was highly similar to the subsequently determined structure of the murine receptor and was used to computationally design 53 mutations of exterior residues in the transmembrane region, yielding a variant intended to be soluble in aqueous media. The designed variant expressed in high yield in Escherichia coli and was water soluble. The variant shared structural and functionally related features with the native human MUR, including helical secondary structure and comparable affinity for the antagonist naltrexone (K d  = 65 nM). The roles of cholesterol and disulfide bonds on the stability of the receptor variant were also investigated. This study exemplifies the potential of the computational approach to produce water-soluble variants of GPCRs amenable for structural and functionally related characterization in aqueous solution.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Receptor, Opioid receptor, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Solutions


A highly crystallizable T4 lysozyme (T4L) was fused to the N-terminus of the β(2) adrenergic receptor (β(2)AR), a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) for catecholamines. We demonstrate that the N-terminal fused T4L is sufficiently rigid relative to the receptor to facilitate crystallogenesis without thermostabilizing mutations or the use of a stabilizing antibody, G protein, or protein fused to the 3rd intracellular loop. This approach adds to the protein engineering strategies that enable crystallographic studies of GPCRs alone or in complex with a signaling partner.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Guanine nucleotide exchange factor, G protein, Beta-2 adrenergic receptor


Integrin clustering plays a pivotal role in a host of cell functions. Hetero-dimeric integrin adhesion receptors regulate cell migration, survival, and differentiation by communicating signals bidirectionally across the plasma membrane. Thus far, crystallographic structures of integrin components are solved only separately, and for some integrin types. Also, the sequence of interactions that leads to signal transduction remains ambiguous. Particularly, it remains controversial whether the homo-dimerization of integrin transmembrane domains occurs following the integrin activation (i.e. when integrin ectodomain is stretched out) or if it regulates integrin clustering. This study employs molecular dynamics modeling approaches to address these questions in molecular details and sheds light on the crucial effect of the plasma membrane. Conducting a normal mode analysis of the intact αllbβ3 integrin, it is demonstrated that the ectodomain and transmembrane-cytoplasmic domains are connected via a membrane-proximal hinge region, thus merely transmembrane-cytoplasmic domains are modeled. By measuring the free energy change and force required to form integrin homo-oligomers, this study suggests that the β-subunit homo-oligomerization potentially regulates integrin clustering, as opposed to α-subunit, which appears to be a poor regulator for the clustering process. If α-subunits are to regulate the clustering they should overcome a high-energy barrier formed by a stable lipid pack around them. Finally, an outside-in activation-clustering scenario is speculated, explaining how further loading the already-active integrin affects its homo-oligomerization so that focal adhesions grow in size.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Cell biology, Cell signaling, G protein-coupled receptor, Gibbs free energy, Normal mode


Adenosine diphosphate (ADP) is a critical regulator of platelet activation, mediating its actions through two G protein-coupled receptors, the P2Y(1) and P2Y(12) purinoceptors. Recently, we demonstrated that P2Y(1) and P2Y(12) purinoceptor activities are rapidly and reversibly modulated in human platelets, revealing that the underlying mechanism requires receptor internalization and subsequent trafficking as an essential part of this process. In this study we investigated the role of the small GTP-binding protein ADP ribosylation factor 6 (ARF6) in the internalization and function of P2Y(1) and P2Y(12) purinoceptors in human platelets. ARF6 has been implicated in the internalization of a number of GPCRs, although its precise molecular mechanism in this process remains unclear. In this study we show that activation of either P2Y(1) or P2Y(12) purinoceptors can stimulate ARF6 activity. Further blockade of ARF6 function either in cell lines or human platelets blocks P2Y purinoceptor internalization. This blockade of receptor internalization attenuates receptor resensitization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Nm23-H1, a nucleoside diphosphate (NDP) kinase regulated by ARF6 which facilitates dynamin-dependent fission of coated vesicles during endocytosis, is also required for P2Y purinoceptor internalization. These data describe a novel function of ARF6 in the internalization of P2Y purinoceptors and demonstrate the integral importance of this small GTPase upon platelet ADP receptor function.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Cell biology, Platelet, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Adenosine diphosphate, ADP ribosylation factor


Regulator of G protein Signaling 14 (RGS14) is a multifunctional scaffolding protein that integrates heterotrimeric G protein and H-Ras signaling pathways. RGS14 possesses an RGS domain that binds active Gαi/o-GTP subunits to promote GTP hydrolysis, and a G protein regulatory (GPR) motif that selectively binds inactive Gαi1/3-GDP subunits to form a stable heterodimer at cellular membranes. RGS14 also contains two tandem Ras/Rap-binding domains (RBDs) that bind H-Ras. Here we show that RGS14 preferentially binds activated H-Ras-GTP in live cells to enhance H-Ras cellular actions, and that this interaction is regulated by inactive Gαi1-GDP and GPCRs. Using bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) in live cells, we show that RGS14-Luciferase and active H-Ras(G/V)-Venus exhibit a robust BRET signal at the plasma membrane that is markedly enhanced in the presence of inactive Gαi1-GDP, but not active Gαi1-GTP. Active H-Ras(G/V) interacts with a native RGS14:Gαi1 complex in brain lysates, and co-expression of RGS14 and Gαi1 in PC12 cells greatly enhances H-Ras(G/V) stimulatory effects on neurite outgrowth. Stimulation of the Gαi-linked α2A-adrenergic receptor induces a conformational change in the Gαi1:RGS14:H-Ras(G/V) complex, which may allow subsequent regulation of the complex by other binding partners. Together, these findings indicate that inactive Gαi1-GDP enhances theaffinity of RGS14 for H-Ras-GTP in live cells, resulting in a ternary signaling complex that is further regulated by GPCRs.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, G protein-coupled receptor, Regulation, G protein, Administrative law, Guanosine triphosphate


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) dissipates nutritional energy as heat via the uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) and BAT activity correlates with leanness in human adults. Here we profile G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in brown adipocytes to identify druggable regulators of BAT. Twenty-one per cent of the GPCRs link to the Gq family, and inhibition of Gq signalling enhances differentiation of human and murine brown adipocytes. In contrast, activation of Gq signalling abrogates brown adipogenesis. We further identify the endothelin/Ednra pathway as an autocrine activator of Gq signalling in brown adipocytes. Expression of a constitutively active Gq protein in mice reduces UCP1 expression in BAT, whole-body energy expenditure and the number of brown-like/beige cells in white adipose tissue (WAT). Furthermore, expression of Gq in human WAT inversely correlates with UCP1 expression. Thus, our data indicate that Gq signalling regulates brown/beige adipocytes and inhibition of Gq signalling may be a novel therapeutic approach to combat obesity.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Obesity, Adipose tissue, Tissues, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Brown adipose tissue, Phospholipase C


Chemokines function via G-protein coupled receptors in a robust network to recruit immune cells to sites of inflammation. Due to the complexity of this network, targeting single chemokines or receptors has not been successful in inflammatory disease. Dog tick saliva contains polyvalent CC-chemokine binding peptides termed evasins 1 and 4, that efficiently disrupt the chemokine network in models of inflammatory disease. Here we develop yeast surface display as a tool for functionally identifying evasins, and use it to identify 10 novel polyvalent CC-chemokine binding evasin-like peptides from salivary transcriptomes of eight tick species in Rhipicephalus and Amblyomma genera. These evasins have unique binding profiles compared to evasins 1 and 4, targeting CCL2 and CCL13 in addition to other CC-chemokines. Evasin binding leads to neutralisation of chemokine function including that of complex chemokine mixtures, suggesting therapeutic efficacy in inflammatory disease. We propose that yeast surface display is a powerful approach to mine potential therapeutics from inter-species protein interactions that have arisen during evolution of parasitism in ticks.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Protein, Signal transduction, Chemokine, G protein-coupled receptor, Tick, Ixodidae


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are known to initiate a plethora of signaling pathways in vitro. However, it is unclear which of these pathways are engaged to mediate physiological responses. Here, we examine the distinct roles of Gq/11-dependent signaling and receptor phosphorylation-dependent signaling in bronchial airway contraction and lung function regulated through the M3-muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (M3-mAChR). By using a genetically engineered mouse expressing a G protein-biased M3-mAChR mutant, we reveal the first evidence, to our knowledge, of a role for M3-mAChR phosphorylation in bronchial smooth muscle contraction in health and in a disease state with relevance to human asthma. Furthermore, this mouse model can be used to distinguish the physiological responses that are regulated by M3-mAChR phosphorylation (which include control of lung function) from those responses that are downstream of G protein signaling. In this way, we present an approach by which to predict the physiological/therapeutic outcome of M3-mAChR-biased ligands with important implications for drug discovery.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Asthma, Muscle contraction, Smooth muscle, Membrane biology, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, G protein


A new paradigm of G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling at intracellular sites has recently emerged, but the underlying mechanisms and functional consequences are insufficiently understood. Here, we show that upon internalization in thyroid cells, endogenous TSH receptors traffic retrogradely to the trans-Golgi network (TGN) and activate endogenous Gs-proteins in the retromer-coated compartment that brings them to the TGN. Receptor internalization is associated with a late cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) response at the Golgi/TGN. Blocking receptor internalization, inhibiting PKA II/interfering with its Golgi/TGN localization, silencing retromer or disrupting Golgi/TGN organization all impair efficient TSH-dependent cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation. These results suggest that retrograde trafficking to the TGN induces local Gs-protein activation and cAMP/PKA signaling at a critical position near the nucleus, which appears required for efficient CREB phosphorylation and gene transcription. This provides a new mechanism to explain the functional consequences of GPCR signaling at intracellular sites and reveals a critical role for the TGN in GPCR signaling.Recent investigations suggest that G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can signal during intracellular trafficking. Here the authors use fluorescence microscopy approaches to directly visualize and investigate functional consequences of GPCR-mediated signaling at the Golgi/trans-Golgi network.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Transcription factor, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Protein kinase A


Cholesterol is a key component of cell membranes with a proven modulatory role on the function and ligand-binding properties of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Crystal structures of prototypical GPCRs such as the adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR) have confirmed that cholesterol finds stable binding sites at the receptor surface suggesting an allosteric role of this lipid. Here we combine experimental and computational approaches to show that cholesterol can spontaneously enter the A2AR-binding pocket from the membrane milieu using the same portal gate previously suggested for opsin ligands. We confirm the presence of cholesterol inside the receptor by chemical modification of the A2AR interior in a biotinylation assay. Overall, we show that cholesterol’s impact on A2AR-binding affinity goes beyond pure allosteric modulation and unveils a new interaction mode between cholesterol and the A2AR that could potentially apply to other GPCRs.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Ligand, Membrane biology, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Steroid