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Biotechnol Annu Rev. 2008;14:253-74. doi: 10.1016/S1387-2656(08)00010-0.

G protein-independent cell-based assays for drug discovery on seven-transmembrane receptors.

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  • 1Molecular Pharmacology Unit, Organon BioSciences, Oss, The Netherlands.


Conventional cell-based assays for seven-transmembrane receptors, also known as G protein-coupled receptors, rely on the coupling of the ligand-bound receptor to heterotrimeric G proteins. New assay methods have become available that are not based on G protein activation, but that apply the molecular mechanism underlying the attenuation of G protein signaling mediated by beta-arrestin. beta-arrestin is a cytoplasmic protein that targets receptors to clathrin-coated endocytotic vesicles for degradation or recycling. This process has been visualized and quantified in high-content imaging assays using receptor- or beta-arrestin-chimeras with green fluorescent protein. Other assay methods use bioluminescence resonance energy transfer, enzyme fragment complementation, or a protease-activated transcriptional reporter gene, to measure receptor-beta-arrestin proximity. beta-arrestin recruitment assays have been applied successfully for receptors coupling to Galpha(q), Galpha(s) and Galpha(i) proteins, thus providing a generic assay platform for drug discovery on G protein-coupled receptors. The best understood signal transduction pathway elicited by the seven-transmembrane Frizzled receptors does not involve G proteins. The activation of Frizzleds by their cognate ligands of the Wnt family recruits the phosphoprotein dishevelled. Dishevelled regulates a protein complex involved in the destruction of beta-catenin. Activation of Frizzled blocks degradation of beta-catenin, which translocates to the nucleus to activate transcription of Wnt-responsive genes. The cytoplasm-to-nuclear translocation of beta-catenin forms the basis of several high-content assays to measure Wnt/Frizzled signal transduction. Interestingly, Frizzled receptors have recently been shown to internalize and to recruit beta-arrestin. This suggests that beta-arrestin recruitment assays may be applied for drug discovery on seven-transmembrane receptors beyond G protein-coupled receptors.

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