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J Biol Chem. 1995 Sep 15;270(37):21619-25.

Mechanisms of thrombin receptor agonist specificity. Chimeric receptors and complementary mutations identify an agonist recognition site.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.


Identification of the docking interactions by which peptide agonists activate their receptors is critical for understanding signal transduction at the molecular level. The human and Xenopus thrombin receptors respond selectively to their respective hexapeptide agonists, SFLLRN and TFRIFD. A systematic analysis of human/Xenopus thrombin receptor chimeras revealed that just two human-for-Xenopus amino acid substitutions, Phe for Asn87 in the Xenopus receptor's amino-terminal exodomain and Glu for Leu260 in the second extracellular loop, conferred human receptor-like specificity to the Xenopus receptor. This observation prompted complementation studies to test the possibility that Arg5a in the human agonist peptide might normally interact with Glu260 in the human receptor. The mutant agonist peptide SFLLEN was a poor agonist at the wild type human receptor but an effective agonist at a mutant human receptor in which Glu260 was converted to Arg. An "arginine scan" of the receptor's extracellular surface revealed additional complementary mutations in the vicinity of position 260 and weak complementation at position 87 but not elsewhere in the receptor. Strikingly, a double alanine substitution that removed negative charge from the Glu260 region of the human receptor also effectively complemented the SFLLEN agonist. The functional complementation achieved with single Arg substitutions was thus due at least in part to neutralization of a negatively charged surface on the receptor and not necessarily to introduction of a new salt bridge. By contrast, charge neutralization did not account for the gain of responsiveness to SFLLRN seen in the human/Xenopus receptor chimeras. Thus two independent approaches, chimeric receptors and arginine scanning for complementary mutations, identified the Glu260 region and to a lesser degree Phe87 as important determinants of agonist specificity. These extracellular sites promote receptor responsiveness to the "correct" agonist and inhibit responsiveness to an "incorrect" agonist. They may participate directly in agonist binding or regulate agonist access to a nearby docking site.

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