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PLoS One. 2011 May 12;6(5):e19585. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019585.

Distinct and shared roles of β-arrestin-1 and β-arrestin-2 on the regulation of C3a receptor signaling in human mast cells.

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Department of Pathology, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America.



The complement component C3a induces degranulation in human mast cells via the activation of cell surface G protein coupled receptors (GPCR; C3aR). For most GPCRs, agonist-induced receptor phosphorylation leads to the recruitment of β-arrestin-1/β-arrestin-2; resulting in receptor desensitization and internalization. Activation of GPCRs also leads to ERK1/2 phosphorylation via two temporally distinct pathways; an early response that reflects G protein activation and a delayed response that is G protein independent but requires β-arrestins. The role of β-arrestins on C3aR activation/regulation in human mast cells, however, remains unknown.


We utilized lentivirus short hairpin (sh)RNA to stably knockdown the expression of β-arrestin-1 and β-arrrestin-2 in human mast cell lines, HMC-1 and LAD2 that endogenously expresses C3aR. Silencing β-arrestin-2 attenuated C3aR desensitization, blocked agonist-induced receptor internalization and rendered the cells responsive to C3a for enhanced NF-κB activity as well as chemokine generation. By contrast, silencing β-arrestin-1 had no effect on these responses but resulted in a significant decrease in C3a-induced mast cell degranulation. In shRNA control cells, C3a caused a transient ERK1/2 phosphorylation, which peaked at 5 min but disappeared by 10 min. Knockdown of β-arrestin-1, β-arrestin-2 or both enhanced the early response to C3a and rendered the cells responsive for ERK1/2 phosphorylation at later time points (10-30 min). Treatment of cells with pertussis toxin almost completely blocked both early and delayed C3a-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation in β-arrestin1/2 knockdown cells.


This study demonstrates distinct roles for β-arrestins-1 and β-arrestins-2 on C3aR desensitization, internalization, degranulation, NF-κB activation and chemokine generation in human mast cells. It also shows that both β-arrestin-1 and β-arrestin-2 play a novel and shared role in inhibiting G protein-dependent ERK1/2 phosphorylation. These findings reveal a new level of complexity for C3aR regulation by β-arrestins in human mast cells.

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