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Concept: Metabotropic glutamate 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


The recent elucidation of the X-ray structure of several class A GPCRs clearly indicates that the amphipathic helix 8 (H8) is a conserved structural domain in most crystallized GPCRs. Very little is known about the presence and the possible role of an analogous H8 domain in the distantly related class C GPCRs. In this study, we investigated the structural properties for the H8 domain of the mGluR2 receptor, a class C GPCR, by applying extended molecular dynamics simulations. Our study indicates that the amphipathic H8 adopts membrane-sensitive conformational states, which depend on the membrane composition. Cholesterol-rich membranes stabilize the helical structure of H8 whereas cholesterol-depleted membranes induce a disruption of H8. The observed link between membrane cholesterol levels and H8 conformational states suggests that H8 behaves as a sensor of cholesterol concentration.

Concepts: Protein structure, Cell membrane, Receptor, Membrane biology, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, X-ray crystallography, Knowledge, Alpha helix


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


Photoreceptor degeneration is one of the most prevalent causes of blindness. Despite photoreceptor loss, the inner retina and central visual pathways remain intact over an extended time period, which has led to creative optogenetic approaches to restore light sensitivity in the surviving inner retina. The major drawbacks of all optogenetic tools recently developed and tested in mouse models are their low light sensitivity and lack of physiological compatibility. Here we introduce a next-generation optogenetic tool, Opto-mGluR6, designed for retinal ON-bipolar cells, which overcomes these limitations. We show that Opto-mGluR6, a chimeric protein consisting of the intracellular domains of the ON-bipolar cell-specific metabotropic glutamate receptor mGluR6 and the light-sensing domains of melanopsin, reliably recovers vision at the retinal, cortical, and behavioral levels under moderate daylight illumination.

Concepts: Protein, Retina, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Visual system, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Lateral geniculate nucleus, Photosensitive ganglion cell


The ubiquitin-proteasome system degrades viral oncoproteins and other microbial virulence factors; however, the role of endolysosomal degradation pathways in these processes is unclear. Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is the causative agent of Kaposi’s sarcoma, and a constitutively active viral G protein-coupled receptor (vGPCR) contributes to the pathogenesis of KSHV-induced tumors. We report that a recently discovered autophagy-related protein, Beclin 2, interacts with KSHV GPCR, facilitates its endolysosomal degradation, and inhibits vGPCR-driven oncogenic signaling. Furthermore, monoallelic loss of Becn2 in mice accelerates the progression of vGPCR-induced lesions that resemble human Kaposi’s sarcoma. Taken together, these findings indicate that Beclin 2 is a host antiviral molecule that protects against the pathogenic effects of KSHV GPCR by facilitating its endolysosomal degradation. More broadly, our data suggest a role for host endolysosomal trafficking pathways in regulating viral pathogenesis and oncogenic signaling.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Signal transduction, Microbiology, Virus, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Kaposi's sarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus


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


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


Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common monogenic cause of inherited intellectual disability and autism, is caused by the silencing of the FMR1 gene, leading to the loss of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), a synaptically expressed RNA-binding protein regulating translation. The Fmr1 knockout model recapitulates the main traits of the disease. Uncontrolled activity of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling seem crucial in the pathology of this disease. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a key modulator of synaptic plasticity, cognitive performance, anxiety, nociception and seizure susceptibility, all of which are affected in FXS. The cannabinoid receptors CB1 (CB1R) and CB2 (CB2R) are activated by phospholipid-derived endocannabinoids, and CB1R-driven long-term regulation of synaptic strength, as a consequence of mGluR5 activation, is altered in several brain areas of Fmr1 knockout mice. We found that CB1R blockade in male Fmr1 knockout (Fmr1(-/y)) mice through pharmacological and genetic approaches normalized cognitive impairment, nociceptive desensitization, susceptibility to audiogenic seizures, overactivated mTOR signaling and altered spine morphology, whereas pharmacological blockade of CB2R normalized anxiolytic-like behavior. Some of these traits were also reversed by pharmacological inhibition of mTOR or mGluR5. Thus, blockade of ECS is a potential therapeutic approach to normalize specific alterations in FXS.

Concepts: Protein, Receptor, Autism, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Cannabinoid receptor, Mental retardation, Fragile X syndrome, FMR1


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