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Concept: G protein


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


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


Beta-arrestins regulate G protein-coupled receptor signaling as competitive inhibitors and protein adaptors. Low molecular weight biased ligands that bind receptors and discriminate between the G protein dependent arm and beta-arrestin, clathrin-associated arm of receptor signaling are considered therapeutically valuable as a result of this distinctive pharmacological behavior. Other than receptor agonists, compounds that activate beta-arrestins are not available. We show that within minutes of exposure to the cationic triphenylmethane dyes malachite green and brilliant green, tissue culture cells recruit beta-arrestins to clathrin scaffolds in a receptor-activation independent manner. In the presence of these compounds G protein signaling is inhibited, ERK and GSK3β signaling are preserved, and the recruitment of the beta2-adaptin, AP2 adaptor complex to clathrin as well as transferrin internalization are reduced. Moreover, malachite green binds beta-arrestin2-GFP coated immunotrap beads relative to GFP only coated beads. Triphenylmethane dyes are FDA approved for topical use on newborns as components of triple-dye preparations, and are not approved but used effectively as aqueous antibiotics in fish husbandry. As possible carcinogens their chronic ingestion in food preparations, particularly through farmed fish, is discouraged in the US and Europe. Our results indicate triphenylmethane dyes as a result of novel pharmacology may have additional roles as beta-arrestin/clathrin pathway signaling modulators in both pharmacology research and clinical therapy.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Receptor antagonist, Membrane biology, Dye, G protein, Triarylmethane dyes


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


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are critically regulated by β-arrestins, which not only desensitize G-protein signalling but also initiate a G-protein-independent wave of signalling. A recent surge of structural data on a number of GPCRs, including the β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR)-G-protein complex, has provided novel insights into the structural basis of receptor activation. However, complementary information has been lacking on the recruitment of β-arrestins to activated GPCRs, primarily owing to challenges in obtaining stable receptor-β-arrestin complexes for structural studies. Here we devised a strategy for forming and purifying a functional human β2AR-β-arrestin-1 complex that allowed us to visualize its architecture by single-particle negative-stain electron microscopy and to characterize the interactions between β2AR and β-arrestin 1 using hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) and chemical crosslinking. Electron microscopy two-dimensional averages and three-dimensional reconstructions reveal bimodal binding of β-arrestin 1 to the β2AR, involving two separate sets of interactions, one with the phosphorylated carboxy terminus of the receptor and the other with its seven-transmembrane core. Areas of reduced HDX together with identification of crosslinked residues suggest engagement of the finger loop of β-arrestin 1 with the seven-transmembrane core of the receptor. In contrast, focal areas of raised HDX levels indicate regions of increased dynamics in both the N and C domains of β-arrestin 1 when coupled to the β2AR. A molecular model of the β2AR-β-arrestin signalling complex was made by docking activated β-arrestin 1 and β2AR crystal structures into the electron microscopy map densities with constraints provided by HDX-MS and crosslinking, allowing us to obtain valuable insights into the overall architecture of a receptor-arrestin complex. The dynamic and structural information presented here provides a framework for better understanding the basis of GPCR regulation by arrestins.

Concepts: Signal transduction, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Arrestin, Cross-link, G protein, G protein-coupled receptors, Beta-2 adrenergic receptor


The kappa opioid receptor (KOR) is involved in mediating pruritus; agonists targeting this receptor have been used to treat chronic intractable itch. Conversely, antagonists induce an inch response at the site of injection. As a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), the KOR has potential for signaling via G proteins and βarrestins, however, it is not clear which of these pathways are involved in the KOR modulation of itch. In this study asked whether the actions of KOR in pruritus involve βarrestins by using βarrestin2 knockout (βarr2-KO) mice as well as a recently described biased KOR agonist that biases receptor signaling toward G protein pathways over βarrestin2 recruitment. We find that the KOR antagonists nor-binaltorphimine (NorBNI) and 5'-guanidinonaltrindole (5'GNTI) induce acute pruritus in C57BL/6J mice, with reduced effects in KOR-KO mice. βarr2-KO mice display less of a response to KOR antagonist-induced itch compared to wild types, however no genotype differences are observed from chloroquine phosphate (CP)-induced itch, suggesting that the antagonists may utilize a KOR-βarrestin2 dependent mechanism. The KOR agonist U50,488H was equally effective in both WT and βarr2-KO mice in suppressing CP-induced itch. Furthermore, the G protein biased agonist, Isoquinolinone 2.1 was as effective as U50,488H in suppressing the itch response induced by KOR antagonist NorBNI or CP in C57BL/6J mice. Together these data suggest that the antipruritic effects of KOR agonists may not require βarrestins.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Receptor antagonist, Opioid receptor, G protein-coupled receptor, Chloroquine, Inverse agonist, Buprenorphine, G protein


In response to environments that cause cellular stress, animals engage in sleep behavior that facilitates recovery from the stress. In Caenorhabditis elegans, stress-induced sleep(SIS) is regulated by cytokine activation of the ALA neuron, which releases FLP-13 neuropeptides characterized by an amidated arginine-phenylalanine (RFamide) C-terminus motif. By performing an unbiased genetic screen for mutants that impair the somnogenic effects of FLP-13 neuropeptides, we identified the gene dmsr-1, which encodes a G-protein coupled receptor similar to an insect RFamide receptor. DMSR-1 is activated by FLP-13 peptides in cell culture, is required for SIS in vivo, is expressed non-synaptically in several wake-promoting neurons, and likely couples to a Gi/o heterotrimeric G-protein. Our data expand our understanding of how a single neuroendocrine cell coordinates an organism-wide behavioral response, and suggest that similar signaling principles may function in other organisms to regulate sleep during sickness.

Concepts: Nervous system, Protein, Neuron, Signal transduction, Genome, Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, G protein


G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), a major gatekeeper of extracellular signals on plasma membrane, are unarguably one of the most important therapeutic targets. Given the recent discoveries of allosteric modulations, an allosteric wiring diagram of intramolecular signal transductions would be of great use to glean the mechanism of receptor regulation. Here, by evaluating betweenness centrality (CB ) of each residue, we calculate maps of information flow in GPCRs and identify key residues for signal transductions and their pathways. Compared with preexisting approaches, the allosteric hotspots that our CB -based analysis detects for A2 A adenosine receptor (A2 A AR) and bovine rhodopsin are better correlated with biochemical data. In particular, our analysis outperforms other methods in locating the rotameric microswitches, which are generally deemed critical for mediating orthosteric signaling in class A GPCRs. For A2 A AR, the inter-residue cross-correlation map, calculated using equilibrium structural ensemble from molecular dynamics simulations, reveals that strong signals of long-range transmembrane communications exist only in the agonist-bound state. A seemingly subtle variation in structure, found in different GPCR subtypes or imparted by agonist bindings or a point mutation at an allosteric site, can lead to a drastic difference in the map of signaling pathways and protein activity. The signaling map of GPCRs provides valuable insights into allosteric modulations as well as reliable identifications of orthosteric signaling pathways. © Proteins 2013;. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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


Background We investigated the hypothesis that postconditioning by FTY720 (FTY) in isolated perfused mouse hearts is independent of the sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) pathway. Material and Methods Ex vivo hearts were exposed to postconditioning (POST) by either ischemia or FTY720. Protection against ischemia/reperfusion (IR) injury was measured by recovery of left ventricular developed pressure (LVDP) and infarct size. Results FTY effectively postconditioned (POST) ex vivo hearts against ischemia/reperfusion (IR) injury as measured by recovery of LVDP and a low infarct size. FTY protection, unlike S1P but like sphingosine (Sph), was insensitive to inhibition of S1P G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) or inhibition of PI3 kinase. Protection by FTY and Sph was however blocked by inhibitors of PKA and PKG. Thus, FTY follows the same cardioprotective pathway as Sph. This was further supported by studies of FTY POST in knockout (KO) mice lacking the SphK2 form of Sph kinase that is needed for phosphorylation of FTY to an S1P analog. In the absence of SphK2, FTY (and Sph) POST was still cardioprotective. This differed from the effect of SphK2 KO on protection by ischemic POST (IPOST). IPOST was not effective in KO hearts. To see if the GPCR signaling pathway to protection is normal in KO hearts, we looked at POST by GPCR agonists S1P and adenosine. Both provided effective protection even in KO hearts suggesting that the problem with IPOST in KO hearts is a low level of S1P available for release during IPOST. Thus, pharmacologic POST with FTY or Sph, like adenosine and S1P, is unaffected in the KO. Conclusions FTY720 administered in vivo might behave in a dual manner showing both S1P-like effects and sphingosine-like effects. It appears that the latter may have been overlooked and may be the more important in aging hearts.

Concepts: Signal transduction, In vivo, Lipid signaling, G protein-coupled receptor, Sphingosine-1-phosphate, Sphingosine, G protein, Sphingosine kinase


Introduction: In 2007, the X-ray structural determination of non-rhodopsin G-Protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), considered the most extensively targeted protein class for marketed drugs, commenced. With the relatively rapid availability of additional structures, an assessment of the progression made is needed in addition to the assessment of the understandings gleaned, deployment successes and forthcoming prospects. Areas covered: The author reviews the approaches and tools that have made it possible to determine the three dimensional structures of GPCRs using X-ray crystallography. Furthermore, the author describes the methods suited for crystallization of membrane bound GPCR proteins including the lipidic cubic phase and various protein modification approaches. The author also provides highlights, from the literature, of the structures determined to date including targets solved, the nature of the content provided (such as selectivity, activating vs. inactivating determinants) and how these structural features relate to drug design strategies. Expert opinion: The GPCR X-ray structures that have been so far determined have yielded significant information. This has presented dramatic evidence concerning their ability to impact the discovery of compounds through their action as traditional, orthosteric modulators. It is, however, noted that more challenging design strategies, such as identifying biased agonists and the use of sites remote from the orthosteric site for allosteric modulation, are still in their infancy.

Concepts: DNA, Signal transduction, Crystallography, Cell membrane, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, X-ray crystallography, G protein