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Neurosignals. 2009;17(1):82-99. doi: 10.1159/000186692. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

Structural determinants involved in the formation and activation of G protein betagamma dimers.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Heterotrimeric G proteins, composed of an alpha, beta and gamma subunit, represent one of the most important and dynamic families of signaling proteins. As a testament to the significance of G protein signaling, the hundreds of seven-transmembrane-spanning receptors that interact with G proteins are estimated to occupy 1-2% of the human genome. This broad diversity of receptors is echoed in the number of potential heterotrimer combinations that can arise from the 23 alpha subunit, 7 beta subunit and 12 gamma subunit isoforms that have been identified. The potential for such vast complexity implies that the receptor G protein interface is the site of much regulation. The historical model for the activation of a G protein holds that activated receptor catalyzes the exchange of GDP for GTP on the alpha subunit, inducing a conformational change that substantially lowers the affinity of alpha for betagamma. This decreased affinity enables dissociation of betagamma from alpha and receptor. The free form of betagamma is thought to activate effectors, until the hydrolysis of GTP by G alpha (aided by RGS proteins) allows the subunits to re-associate, effectively deactivating the G protein until another interaction with activated receptor.

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