skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00PM ET on Friday, December 15 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 16 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

This content will become publicly available on March 7, 2024

Title: Elucidation of a dynamic interplay between a beta-2 adrenergic receptor, its agonist, and stimulatory G protein
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent the largest group of membrane receptors for transmembrane signal transduction. Ligand-induced activation of GPCRs triggers G protein activation followed by various signaling cascades. Understanding the structural and energetic determinants of ligand binding to GPCRs and GPCRs to G proteins is crucial to the design of pharmacological treatments targeting specific conformations of these proteins to precisely control their signaling properties. In this study, we focused on interactions of a prototypical GPCR, beta-2 adrenergic receptor (β 2 AR), with its endogenous agonist, norepinephrine (NE), and the stimulatory G protein (G s ). Using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we demonstrated the stabilization of cationic NE, NE(+), binding to β 2 AR by G s protein recruitment, in line with experimental observations. We also captured the partial dissociation of the ligand from β 2 AR and the conformational interconversions of G s between closed and open conformations in the NE(+)–β 2 AR–G s ternary complex while it is still bound to the receptor. The variation of NE(+) binding poses was found to alter G s α subunit (G s α) conformational transitions. Our simulations showed that the interdomain movement and the stacking of G s α α1 and α5 helices are significant for increasing the distance between the G s α and β 2 AR, which may indicate a partial dissociation of G s α The distance increase commences when G s α is predominantly in an open state and can be triggered by the intracellular loop 3 (ICL3) of β 2 AR interacting with G s α, causing conformational changes of the α5 helix. Our results help explain molecular mechanisms of ligand and GPCR-mediated modulation of G protein activation.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The β2adrenergic receptor (β2AR) is an archetypal G protein coupled receptor (GPCR). One structural signature of GPCR activation is a large-scale movement (ca. 6 to 14 Å) of transmembrane helix 6 (TM6) to a conformation which binds and activates a cognate G protein. The β2AR exhibits a low level of agonist-independent G protein activation. The structural origin of this basal activity and its suppression by inverse agonists is unknown but could involve a unique receptor conformation that promotes G protein activation. Alternatively, a conformational selection model proposes that a minor population of the canonical active receptor conformation exists in equilibrium with inactive forms, thus giving rise to basal activity of the ligand-free receptor. Previous spin-labeling and fluorescence resonance energy transfer experiments designed to monitor the positional distribution of TM6 did not detect the presence of the active conformation of ligand-free β2AR. Here we employ spin-labeling and pressure-resolved double electron–electron resonance spectroscopy to reveal the presence of a minor population of unliganded receptor, with the signature outward TM6 displacement, in equilibrium with inactive conformations. Binding of inverse agonists suppresses this population. These results provide direct structural evidence in favor of a conformational selection model for basal activity in β2AR and provide a mechanism for inverse agonism. In addition, they emphasize 1) the importance of minor populations in GPCR catalytic function; 2) the use of spin-labeling and variable-pressure electron paramagnetic resonance to reveal them in a membrane protein; and 3) the quantitative evaluation of their thermodynamic properties relative to the inactive forms, including free energy, partial molar volume, and compressibility.

    more » « less
  2. The trafficking of G protein coupled‐receptors (GPCRs) is one of the most exciting areas in cell biology because of recent advances demonstrating that GPCR signaling is spatially encoded. GPCRs, acting in a diverse array of physiological systems, can have differential signaling consequences depending on their subcellular localization. At the plasma membrane, GPCR organization could fine‐tune the initial stages of receptor signaling by determining the magnitude of signaling and the type of effectors to which receptors can couple. This organization is mediated by the lipid composition of the plasma membrane, receptor‐receptor interactions, and receptor interactions with intracellular scaffolding proteins. GPCR organization is subsequently changed by ligand binding and the regulated endocytosis of these receptors. Activated GPCRs can modulate the dynamics of their own endocytosis through changing clathrin‐coated pit dynamics, and through the scaffolding adaptor protein β‐arrestin. This endocytic regulation has signaling consequences, predominantly through modulation of the MAPK cascade. This review explores what is known about receptor sorting at the plasma membrane, protein partners that control receptor endocytosis, and the ways in which receptor sorting at the plasma membrane regulates downstream trafficking and signaling.

    more » « less
  3. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest class of cell-surface receptor proteins with important functions in signal transduction and often serve as therapeutic drug targets. With the rapidly growing public data on three dimensional (3D) structures of GPCRs and GPCR-ligand interactions, computational prediction of GPCR ligand binding becomes a convincing option to high throughput screening and other experimental approaches during the beginning phases of ligand discovery. In this work, we set out to computationally uncover and understand the binding of a single ligand to GPCRs from several different families. Three-dimensional structural comparisons of the GPCRs that bind to the same ligand revealed local 3D structural similarities and often these regions overlap with locations of binding pockets. These pockets were found to be similar (based on backbone geometry and side-chain orientation using APoc), and they correlate positively with electrostatic properties of the pockets. Moreover, the more similar the pockets, the more likely a ligand binding to the pockets will interact with similar residues, have similar conformations, and produce similar binding affinities across the pockets. These findings can be exploited to improve protein function inference, drug repurposing and drug toxicity prediction, and accelerate the development of new drugs. 
    more » « less
  4. CC chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2) is a part of the chemokine receptor family, an important class of therapeutic targets. These class A G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are involved in mammalian signaling pathways and control cell migration toward endogenous CC chemokine ligands, named for the adjacent cysteine motif on their N terminus. Chemokine receptors and their associated ligands are involved in a wide range of diseases and thus have become important drug targets. CCR2, in particular, promotes the metastasis of cancer cells and is also implicated in autoimmunity-driven type-1 diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, multiple sclerosis, asthma, atherosclerosis, neuropathic pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. Although promising, CCR2 antagonists have been largely unsuccessful to date. Here, we investigate the effect of an orthosteric and an allosteric antagonist on CCR2 dynamics by coupling long-timescale molecular dynamics simulations with Markov-state model theory. We find that the antagonists shift CCR2 into several stable inactive conformations that are distinct from the crystal structure conformation and disrupt a continuous internal water and sodium ion pathway, preventing transitions to an active-like state. Several metastable conformations present a cryptic drug-binding pocket near the allosteric site that may be amenable to targeting with small molecules. Without antagonists, the apo dynamics reveal intermediate conformations along the activation pathway that provide insight into the basal dynamics of CCR2 and may also be useful for future drug design.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Regulator of G protein signaling (RGS) proteins play a pivotal role in regulation of G protein‐coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling and are therefore becoming an increasingly important therapeutic target. Recently discovered thiadiazolidinone (TDZD) compounds that target cysteine residues have shown different levels of specificities and potencies for the RGS4 protein, thereby suggesting intrinsic differences in dynamics of this protein upon binding of these compounds. In this work, we investigated using atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations the effect of binding of several small‐molecule inhibitors on perturbations and dynamical motions in RGS4. Specifically, we studied two conformational models of RGS4 in which a buried cysteine residue is solvent‐exposed due to side‐chain motions or due to flexibility in neighboring helices. We found that TDZD compounds with aromatic functional groups perturb the RGS4 structure more than compounds with aliphatic functional groups. Moreover, small‐molecules with aromatic functional groups but lacking sulfur atoms only transiently reside within the protein and spontaneously dissociate to the solvent. We further measured inhibitory effects of TDZD compounds using a protein–protein interaction assay on a single‐cysteine RGS4 protein showing trends in potencies of compounds consistent with our simulation studies. Thermodynamic analyses of RGS4 conformations in the apo‐state and on binding to TDZD compounds revealed links between both conformational models of RGS4. The exposure of cysteine side‐chains appears to facilitate initial binding of TDZD compounds followed by migration of the compound into a bundle of four helices, thereby causing allosteric perturbations in the RGS/Gα protein–protein interface.

    more » « less