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Mol Cell Biol. 2004 Mar;24(5):2041-51.

A microdomain formed by the extracellular ends of the transmembrane domains promotes activation of the G protein-coupled alpha-factor receptor.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794-5222, USA.


The alpha-factor receptor (Ste2p) that promotes mating in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is similar to other G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in that it contains seven transmembrane domains. Previous studies suggested that the extracellular ends of the transmembrane domains are important for Ste2p function, so a systematic scanning mutagenesis was carried out in which 46 residues near the ends of transmembrane domains 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 were replaced with cysteine. These mutants complement mutations constructed previously near the ends of transmembrane domains 5 and 6 to analyze all the extracellular ends. Eight new mutants created in this study were partially defective in signaling (V45C, N46C, T50C, A52C, L102C, N105C, L277C, and A281C). Treatment with 2-([biotinoyl] amino) ethyl methanethiosulfonate, a thiol-specific reagent that reacts with accessible cysteine residues but not membrane-embedded cysteines, identified a drop in the level of reactivity over a consecutive series of residues that was inferred to be the membrane boundary. An unusual prolonged zone of intermediate reactivity near the extracellular end of transmembrane domain 2 suggests that this region may adopt a special structure. Interestingly, residues implicated in ligand binding were mainly accessible, whereas residues involved in the subsequent step of promoting receptor activation were mainly inaccessible. These results define a receptor microdomain that provides an important framework for interpreting the mechanisms by which functionally important residues contribute to ligand binding and activation of Ste2p and other GPCRs.

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