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J Proteome Res. 2011 Oct 7;10(10):4789-98. doi: 10.1021/pr2005583. Epub 2011 Sep 13.

Mass spectrometry-based proteomics of human cannabinoid receptor 2: covalent cysteine 6.47(257)-ligand interaction affording megagonist receptor activation.

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Center for Drug Discovery, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, College of Science, Northeastern University , Boston, Massachusetts 02115-5000, United States.


The lack of experimental characterization of the structures and ligand-binding motifs of therapeutic G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) hampers rational drug discovery. The human cannabinoid receptor 2 (hCB2R) is a class-A GPCR and promising therapeutic target for small-molecule cannabinergic agonists as medicines. Prior mutational and modeling data constitute provisional evidence that AM-841, a high-affinity classical cannabinoid, interacts with cysteine C6.47(257) in hCB2R transmembrane helix 6 (TMH6) to afford improved hCB2R selectivity and unprecedented agonist potency. We now apply bottom-up mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics to define directly the hCB2R-AM-841 interaction at the amino-acid level. Recombinant hCB2R, overexpressed as an N-terminal FLAG-tagged/C-terminal 6His-tagged protein (FLAG-hCB2R-6His) with a baculovirus system, was solubilized and purified by immunochromatography as functional receptor. A multiplex multiple reaction monitoring (MRM)-MS method was developed that allowed us to observe unambiguously all seven discrete TMH peptides in the tryptic digest of purified FLAG-hCB2R-6His and demonstrate that AM-841 modifies hCB2R TMH6 exclusively. High-resolution mass spectra of the TMH6 tryptic peptide obtained by Q-TOF MS/MS analysis demonstrated that AM-841 covalently and selectively modifies hCB2R at TMH6 cysteine C6.47(257). These data demonstrate how integration of MS-based proteomics into a ligand-assisted protein structure (LAPS) experimental paradigm can offer guidance to structure-enabled GPCR agonist design.

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