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Biophys J. 1998 Aug; 75(2): 601–611.
PMCID: PMC1299736

A proposed structure for transmembrane segment 7 of G protein-coupled receptors incorporating an asn-Pro/Asp-Pro motif.


Transmembrane segment (TMS) 7 has been shown to play an important role in the signal transduction function of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Although transmembrane segments are most likely to adopt a helical structure, results from a variety of experimental studies involving TMS 7 are inconsistent with it being an ideal alpha-helix. Using results from a search of the structure database and extensive simulated annealing Monte Carlo runs with the new Conformational Memories method, we have identified the conserved (N/D)PxxY region of TMS 7 as the major determinant for deviation of TMS 7 from ideal helicity. The perturbation consists of an Asx turn and a flexible "hinge" region. The Conformational Memories procedure yielded a model structure of TMS 7 which, unlike an ideal alpha-helix, is capable of accommodating all of the experimentally derived geometrical criteria for the interactions of TMS 7 in the transmembrane bundle of GPCRs. In the context of the entire structure of a transmembrane bundle model for the 5HT2a receptor, the specific perturbation of TMS 7 by the NP sequence suggests a structural hypothesis for the pattern of amino acid conservation observed in TMS 1, 2, and 7 of GPCRs. The structure resulting from the incorporation of the (N/D)P motif satisfies fully the H-bonding capabilities of the 100% conserved polar residues in these TMSs, in agreement with results from mutagenesis experiments. The flexibility introduced by the specific structural perturbation produced by the (NP/DP) motif in TMS 7 is proposed to have a significant role in receptor activation.

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