Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Sci Signal. 2011 Aug 9;4(185):ra52. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.2001748.

Quantitative encoding of the effect of a partial agonist on individual opioid receptors by multisite phosphorylation and threshold detection.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


In comparison to endogenous ligands of seven-transmembrane receptors, which typically act as full agonists, many drugs act as partial agonists. Partial agonism is best described as a "macroscopic" property that is manifest at the level of physiological systems or cell populations; however, whether partial agonists also encode discrete regulatory information at the "microscopic" level of individual receptors is not known. Here, we addressed this question by focusing on morphine, a partial agonist drug for μ-type opioid peptide receptors (MORs), and by combining quantitative mass spectrometry with cell biological analysis to investigate the reduced efficacy of morphine, compared to that of a peptide full agonist, in promoting receptor endocytosis. We showed that these chemically distinct ligands produced a complex and qualitatively similar mixture of phosphorylated opioid receptor forms in intact cells. Quantitatively, however, the different agonists promoted disproportionate multisite phosphorylation of a specific serine and threonine motif, and we found that modification at more than one residue was essential for the efficient recruitment of the adaptor protein β-arrestin that mediated subsequent endocytosis of MORs. Thus, quantitative encoding of agonist-selective endocytosis at the level of individual opioid receptors was based on the conserved biochemical principles of multisite phosphorylation and threshold detection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center