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      Engineering of Challenging G Protein-Coupled Receptors for Structure Determination and Biophysical Studies

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          Abstract

          Membrane proteins such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) exert fundamental biological functions and are involved in a multitude of physiological responses, making these receptors ideal drug targets. Drug discovery programs targeting GPCRs have been greatly facilitated by the emergence of high-resolution structures and the resulting opportunities to identify new chemical entities through structure-based drug design. To enable the determination of high-resolution structures of GPCRs, most receptors have to be engineered to overcome intrinsic hurdles such as their poor stability and low expression levels. In recent years, multiple engineering approaches have been developed to specifically address the technical difficulties of working with GPCRs, which are now beginning to make more challenging receptors accessible to detailed studies. Importantly, successfully engineered GPCRs are not only valuable in X-ray crystallography, but further enable biophysical studies with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, surface plasmon resonance, native mass spectrometry, and fluorescence anisotropy measurements, all of which are important for the detailed mechanistic understanding, which is the prerequisite for successful drug design. Here, we summarize engineering strategies based on directed evolution to reduce workload and enable biophysical experiments of particularly challenging GPCRs.

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          Most cited references 92

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          Structure of the adenosine A(2A) receptor in complex with ZM241385 and the xanthines XAC and caffeine.

          Methylxanthines, including caffeine and theophylline, are among the most widely consumed stimulant drugs in the world. These effects are mediated primarily via blockade of adenosine receptors. Xanthine analogs with improved properties have been developed as potential treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Here we report the structures of a thermostabilized adenosine A(2A) receptor in complex with the xanthines xanthine amine congener and caffeine, as well as the A(2A) selective inverse agonist ZM241385. The receptor is crystallized in the inactive state conformation as defined by the presence of a salt bridge known as the ionic lock. The complete third intracellular loop, responsible for G protein coupling, is visible consisting of extended helices 5 and 6. The structures provide new insight into the features that define the ligand binding pocket of the adenosine receptor for ligands of diverse chemotypes as well as the cytoplasmic regions that interact with signal transduction proteins. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            Conformational thermostabilization of the beta1-adrenergic receptor in a detergent-resistant form.

            There are approximately 350 non-odorant G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) encoded by the human genome, many of which are predicted to be potential therapeutic targets, but there are only two structures available to represent the whole of the family. We hypothesized that improving the detergent stability of these receptors and simultaneously locking them into one preferred conformation will greatly improve the chances of crystallization. We developed a generic strategy for the isolation of detergent-solubilized thermostable mutants of a GPCR, the beta1-adrenergic receptor. The most stable mutant receptor, betaAR-m23, contained six point mutations that led to an apparent T(m) 21 degrees C higher than the native protein, and, in the presence of bound antagonist, betaAR-m23 was as stable as bovine rhodopsin. In addition, betaAR-m23 was significantly more stable in a wide range of detergents ideal for crystallization and was preferentially in an antagonist conformation in the absence of ligand.
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              The Molecular Basis of G Protein–Coupled Receptor Activation

              G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) mediate the majority of cellular responses to external stimuli. Upon activation by a ligand, the receptor binds to a partner heterotrimeric G protein and promotes exchange of GTP for GDP, leading to dissociation of the G protein into α and βγ subunits that mediate downstream signals. GPCRs can also activate distinct signaling pathways through arrestins. Active states of GPCRs form by small rearrangements of the ligand-binding, or orthosteric, site that are amplified into larger conformational changes. Molecular understanding of the allosteric coupling between ligand binding and G protein or arrestin interaction is emerging from structures of several GPCRs crystallized in inactive and active states, spectroscopic data, and computer simulations. The coupling is loose, rather than concerted, and agonist binding does not fully stabilize the receptor in an active conformation. Distinct intermediates whose populations are shifted by ligands of different efficacies underlie the complex pharmacology of GPCRs.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                Molecules
                Molecules
                molecules
                Molecules
                MDPI
                1420-3049
                08 March 2021
                March 2021
                : 26
                : 5
                Affiliations
                Department of Biochemistry, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland; y.waltenspuehl@ 123456bioc.uzh.ch (Y.W.); j.ehrenmann@ 123456bioc.uzh.ch (J.E.); c.klenk@ 123456bioc.uzh.ch (C.K.)
                Author notes
                Article
                molecules-26-01465
                10.3390/molecules26051465
                7962830
                © 2021 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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