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Concept: Receptor


Biological resurfacing of entire articular surfaces represents an important but challenging strategy for treatment of cartilage degeneration that occurs in osteoarthritis. Not only does this approach require anatomically sized and functional engineered cartilage, but the inflammatory environment within an arthritic joint may also inhibit chondrogenesis and induce degradation of native and engineered cartilage. The goal of this study was to use adult stem cells to engineer anatomically shaped, functional cartilage constructs capable of tunable and inducible expression of antiinflammatory molecules, specifically IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). Large (22-mm-diameter) hemispherical scaffolds were fabricated from 3D woven poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) fibers into two different configurations and seeded with human adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs). Doxycycline (dox)-inducible lentiviral vectors containing eGFP or IL-1Ra transgenes were immobilized to the PCL to transduce ASCs upon seeding, and constructs were cultured in chondrogenic conditions for 28 d. Constructs showed biomimetic cartilage properties and uniform tissue growth while maintaining their anatomic shape throughout culture. IL-1Ra-expressing constructs produced nearly 1 µg/mL of IL-1Ra upon controlled induction with dox. Treatment with IL-1 significantly increased matrix metalloprotease activity in the conditioned media of eGFP-expressing constructs but not in IL-1Ra-expressing constructs. Our findings show that advanced textile manufacturing combined with scaffold-mediated gene delivery can be used to tissue engineer large anatomically shaped cartilage constructs that possess controlled delivery of anticytokine therapy. Importantly, these cartilage constructs have the potential to provide mechanical functionality immediately upon implantation, as they will need to replace a majority, if not the entire joint surface to restore function.

Concepts: Biology, Extracellular matrix, Receptor, Cellular differentiation, Histology, Osteoarthritis, Engineering, Adult stem cell


Each person expresses a potentially unique subset of ∼400 different olfactory receptor subtypes. Given that the receptors we express partially determine the odors we smell, it follows that each person may have a unique nose; to capture this, we devised a sensitive test of olfactory perception we termed the “olfactory fingerprint.” Olfactory fingerprints relied on matrices of perceived odorant similarity derived from descriptors applied to the odorants. We initially fingerprinted 89 individuals using 28 odors and 54 descriptors. We found that each person had a unique olfactory fingerprint (P < 10(-10)), which was odor specific but descriptor independent. We could identify individuals from this pool using randomly selected sets of 7 odors and 11 descriptors alone. Extrapolating from this data, we determined that using 34 odors and 35 descriptors we could individually identify each of the 7 billion people on earth. Olfactory perception, however, fluctuates over time, calling into question our proposed perceptual readout of presumably stable genetic makeup. To test whether fingerprints remain informative despite this temporal fluctuation, building on the linkage between olfactory receptors and HLA, we hypothesized that olfactory perception may relate to HLA. We obtained olfactory fingerprints and HLA typing for 130 individuals, and found that olfactory fingerprint matching using only four odorants was significantly related to HLA matching (P < 10(-4)), such that olfactory fingerprints can save 32% of HLA tests in a population screen (P < 10(-6)). In conclusion, a precise measure of olfactory perception reveals meaningful nonolfactory genetic information.

Concepts: Receptor, Sense, Olfaction, Olfactory receptor, Odor, Aroma compound, Fingerprint, Body odor


The parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system regulates the activity of multiple organ systems. Muscarinic receptors are G-protein-coupled receptors that mediate the response to acetylcholine released from parasympathetic nerves. Their role in the unconscious regulation of organ and central nervous system function makes them potential therapeutic targets for a broad spectrum of diseases. The M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (M2 receptor) is essential for the physiological control of cardiovascular function through activation of G-protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium channels, and is of particular interest because of its extensive pharmacological characterization with both orthosteric and allosteric ligands. Here we report the structure of the antagonist-bound human M2 receptor, the first human acetylcholine receptor to be characterized structurally, to our knowledge. The antagonist 3-quinuclidinyl-benzilate binds in the middle of a long aqueous channel extending approximately two-thirds through the membrane. The orthosteric binding pocket is formed by amino acids that are identical in all five muscarinic receptor subtypes, and shares structural homology with other functionally unrelated acetylcholine binding proteins from different species. A layer of tyrosine residues forms an aromatic cap restricting dissociation of the bound ligand. A binding site for allosteric ligands has been mapped to residues at the entrance to the binding pocket near this aromatic cap. The structure of the M2 receptor provides insights into the challenges of developing subtype-selective ligands for muscarinic receptors and their propensity for allosteric regulation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Receptor, Neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, Acetylcholine receptor, Atropine


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


The psychoactive component of the cannabis resin and flowers, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was first isolated in 1964, and at least 70 other structurally related ‘phytocannabinoid’ compounds have since been identified. The serendipitous identification of a G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor at which THC is active in the brain heralded an explosion in cannabinoid research. Elements of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) comprise the cannabinoid receptors, a family of nascent lipid ligands, the ‘endocannabinoids’ and the machinery for their biosynthesis and metabolism. The function of the ECS is thus defined by modulation of these receptors, in particular, by two of the best-described ligands, 2-arachidonoyl glycerol and anandamide (arachidonylethanolamide). Research on the ECS has recently aroused enormous interest not only for the physiological functions, but also for the promising therapeutic potentials of drugs interfering with the activity of cannabinoid receptors. Many of the former relate to stress-recovery systems and to the maintenance of homeostatic balance. Among other functions, the ECS is involved in neuroprotection, modulation of nociception, regulation of motor activity, neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity and the control of certain phases of memory processing. In addition, the ECS acts to modulate the immune and inflammatory responses and to maintain a positive energy balance. This theme issue aims to provide the reader with an overview of ECS pharmacology, followed by discussions on the pivotal role of this system in the modulation of neurogenesis in the developing and adult organism, memory processes and synaptic plasticity, as well as in pathological pain and brain ageing. The volume will conclude with discussions that address the proposed therapeutic applications of targeting the ECS for the treatment of neurodegeneration, pain and mental illness.

Concepts: Receptor, Cannabinoid receptor, Tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabis, Cannabidiol, Cannabinoids, Anandamide


Accumulated evidence has suggested that potentiation of cortical GABAergic inhibitory neurotransmission may be a key mechanism in the treatment of schizophrenia. However, the downstream molecular mechanisms related to GABA potentiation remain unexplored. Recent studies have suggested that dopamine D2 receptor antagonists, which are used in the clinical treatment of schizophrenia, modulate protein kinase B (Akt)/glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3 signaling. Here we report that activation of GABAB receptors significantly inhibits Akt/GSK-3 signaling in a beta-arrestin-dependent pathway. Agonist stimulation of GABAB receptors enhances the phosphorylation of Akt (Thr-308) and enhances the phosphorylation of GSK-3alpha (Ser-21)/beta (Ser-9) in both HEK-293T cells expressing GABAB receptors and rat hippocampal slices. Furthermore, knocking down the expression of beta-arrestin2 using siRNA abolishes the GABAB receptor-mediated modulation of GSK-3 signaling. Our data may help to identify potentially novel targets through which GABAB receptor agents may exert therapeutic effects in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Receptor, Receptor antagonist, Dopamine receptor, Neurotransmitter, Schizophrenia, Dopamine receptor D2, GABAB 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


The effect of rifampicin on the pharmacokinetics of fexofenadine enantiomers was examined in healthy subjects who received fexofenadine alone or with single or multiple doses of rifampicin (600 mg). A single coadministered dose of rifampicin significantly decreased the oral clearance (CL(tot)/F) and renal clearance (CL®) of S- and R-fexofenadine by 76 and 62%, and 73 and 62%, respectively. Even after multiple doses, rifampicin significantly decreased these parameters, although the effect on the CL(tot)/F was slightly blunted. Multiple doses of rifampicin abolished the difference in the CL(tot)/F of fexofenadine enantiomers, whereas the stereoselectivity in the CL® persisted. Rifampicin inhibited the uptake of fexofenadine enantiomers by human hepatocytes via organic anion transporter (OAT) OATP1B3 and its basal-to-apical transport in Caco-2 cells, but not OAT3-mediated or multidrug and toxic compound extrusion 1 (MATE1)-mediated transport. The plasma-unbound fraction of S-fexofenadine was 1.8 times higher than that of R-fexofenadine. The rifampicin-sensitive uptake by hepatocytes was 1.6 times higher for R-fexofenadine, whereas the transport activities by OATP1B3, OAT3, MATE1, or P-glycoprotein were identical for both enantiomers. S-fexofenadine is a more potent human histamine H1 receptor antagonist than R-fexofenadine. In conclusion, rifampicin has multiple interaction sites with fexofenadine, all of which contribute to increasing the area under the curve of fexofenadine when they are given simultaneously, to surpass the effect of the induction of P-glycoprotein elicited by multiple doses.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Human, Receptor, Ligand, Histamine, Receptor antagonist, Inverse agonist, Histamine H1 receptor


The mechanism of cardiovascular responses to chemical stimulation of the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARCN) was studied in urethane-anesthetized adult male Wistar rats. At the baseline mean arterial pressure (BLMAP) close to normal, ARCN stimulation elicited decreases in MAP and sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). The decreases in MAP elicited by ARCN stimulation were attenuated by either gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), neuropeptide Y (NPY), or beta-endorphin receptor blockade in the ipsilateral hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Combined blockade of GABA-A, NPY1 and opioid receptors in the ipsilateral PVN converted the decreases in MAP and SNA to increases in these variables. Conversion of inhibitory effects on the MAP and SNA to excitatory effects following ARCN stimulation was also observed when the BLMAP was decreased to below normal levels by an infusion of sodium nitroprusside. The pressor and tachycardic responses to ARCN stimulation at below normal BLMAP were attenuated by blockade of melanocortin ¾ (MC3/4) receptors in the ipsilateral PVN. Unilateral blockade of GABA-A receptors in the ARCN increased the BLMAP and heart rate (HR) revealing tonic inhibition of the excitatory neurons in the ARCN. ARCN stimulation elicited tachycardia regardless of the level of BLMAP. ARCN neurons projecting to the PVN were immunoreactive for glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67), NPY, and beta-endorphin. These results indicated that: 1) at normal BLMAP, decreases in MAP and SNA induced by ARCN stimulation were mediated via GABA-A, NPY1 and opioid receptors in the PVN, 2) lowering of BLMAP converted decreases in MAP following ARCN stimulation to increases in MAP, and 3) at below normal BLMAP, increases in MAP and HR induced by ARCN stimulation were mediated via MC3/4 receptors in the PVN. These results provide a base for future studies to explore the role of ARCN in cardiovascular diseases.

Concepts: Nervous system, Hypothalamus, Receptor, Neuroendocrinology, Leptin, Dopamine, Neuropeptide Y, Arcuate nucleus


Purinergic signaling contributes significantly to pain mechanisms, and the nociceptor-specific P2X3 ATP receptor channel is considered a target in pain therapeutics. Recent evidence for co-expression of metabotropic P2Y receptors with P2X3 suggests that ATP release triggers the activation of both ionotropic and metabotropic purinoceptors, with strong potential for functional interaction. Modulation of native P2X3 function by P2Y receptor activation was investigated in rat dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. Application of the selective P2Y receptor agonist UTP decreased peak amplitudes of α,β-meATP-evoked homomeric P2X3-mediated currents, but had no effect on heteromeric P2X2/3-mediated currents. Treatment with phospholipase C (PLC) inhibitor U73122 significantly reversed P2X3 current inhibition induced by UTP-sensitive P2Y receptor activation. We previously reported the modulation of P2X receptors by phospholipids in DRG neurons and injection of exogenous phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) fully reverses UTP-mediated regulation of P2X3 channel activity. Pharmacological as well as functional screening of P2Y receptor subtypes indicates the predominant involvement of P2Y2 receptor in P2X3 inhibition and immunolocalization confirms a significant cellular co-expression of P2X3 and P2Y2 in rat DRG neurons. In summary, the function of P2X3 ATP receptor can be inhibited by P2Y2-mediated depletion of PIP2. We propose that expression of P2Y2 purinoceptor in nociceptive sensory neurons provides an homeostatic mechanism to prevent excessive ATP signaling through P2X3 receptor channels.

Concepts: Nervous system, Signal transduction, Receptor, Action potential, Sensory system, Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Inverse agonist