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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2008 Feb;29(2):79-83. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 Jan 14.

New G-protein-coupled receptor crystal structures: insights and limitations.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, 279 Campus Drive, Stanford, Palo Alto, CA 94305, USA.


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) constitute a large family of structurally similar proteins that respond to a chemically diverse array of physiological and environmental stimulants. Until recently, high-resolution structural information was limited to rhodopsin, a naturally abundant GPCR that is highly specialized for the detection of light. Non-rhodopsin GPCRs for diffusible hormones and neurotransmitters have proven more resistant to crystallography approaches, possibly because of their inherent structural flexibility and the need for recombinant expression. Recently, crystal structures of the human beta(2) adrenoceptor have been obtained using two different approaches to stabilize receptor protein and increase polar surface area. These structures, together with the existing structures of rhodopsin, represent an important first step in understanding how GPCRs work at a molecular level. Much more high-resolution information is needed for this important family of membrane proteins, however: for example, the structures of GPCRs from different families, structures bound to ligands having different efficacies, and structures of GPCRs in complex with G proteins and other signaling molecules. Methods to characterize the dynamic aspects of the GPCR architecture at high resolution will also be important.

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