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J Recept Signal Transduct Res. 1999 Jan-Jul;19(1-4):293-300.

Characterization of ligand-induced conformational states in the beta 2 adrenergic receptor.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University Medical Center, CA 94305-5345, USA.


Drugs acting at G protein coupled receptors can be classified in biological assays as either agonists, partial agonists, neutral antagonists, or as inverse agonists. Very little is known about the actual molecular events and structural changes that occur in the receptor following ligand binding and during transmission of a signal across the membrane. Therefore, the structural basis for the biological classification of drug action remains unknown. To date, the conformational state of G protein coupled receptors has been inferred from the activity of the effector enzyme modulated by the G protein. We have used two different approaches to monitor conformational changes in beta 2 adrenergic receptor. Fluorescence spectroscopy can be used to directly monitor structural changes in purified beta 2 adrenergic receptor in real-time. The emission from many fluorescent molecules is strongly dependent on the polarity of the environment in which they are located. Thus, fluorescent probes covalently bound to proteins can be used as sensitive indicators of conformational changes and protein-protein interactions. In addition, we examined functional differences between agonists and partial agonists using fusion proteins between wild-type beta 2 receptor or a constitutively active beta 2 receptor mutant and Gs alpha. These receptor-G protein fusion proteins guarantee highly efficient coupling with a defined stoichiometry. The results of these experiments will be discussed in the context of current models of G protein coupled receptor activation.

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