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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 1;105(13):5230-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801319105. Epub 2008 Mar 24.

Alternative splicing of the G protein-coupled receptor superfamily in human airway smooth muscle diversifies the complement of receptors.

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ExonHit Therapeutics, Inc., 217 Perry Parkway, Building 5, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, USA.


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest signaling family in the genome, serve an expansive array of functions, and are targets for approximately 50% of current therapeutics. In many tissues, such as airway smooth muscle (ASM), complex, unexpected, or paradoxical responses to agonists/antagonists occur without known mechanisms. We hypothesized that ASM express many more GPCRs than predicted, and that these undergo substantial alternative splicing, creating a highly diversified receptor milieu. Transcript arrays were designed detecting 434 GPCRs and their predicted splice variants. In this cell type, 353 GPCRs were detected (including 111 orphans), with expression levels varying by approximately 900-fold. Receptors used for treating airway disease were expressed lower than others with similar signaling properties, indicating potentially more effective targets. A disproportionate number of Class-A peptide-group receptors, and those coupling to G(q)/(11) or G(s) (vs. G(i)), was found. Importantly, 192 GPCRs had, on average, five different expressed receptor isoforms because of splicing events, including alternative splice donors and acceptors, novel introns, intron retentions, exon(s) skips, and novel exons, with the latter two events being most prevalent. The consequences of splicing were further investigated with the leukotriene B4 receptor, known for its aberrant responsiveness in lung. We found transcript expression of three variants because of alternative donor and acceptor splice sites, representing in-frame deletions of 38 and 100 aa, with protein expression of all three isoforms. Thus, alternative splicing, subject to conditional, temporal, and cell-type regulation, is a major mechanism that diversifies the GPCR superfamily, creating local recepteromes with specialized environments.

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