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Neuron. 2012 Jan 26;73(2):317-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.10.038.

Apo-ghrelin receptor forms heteromers with DRD2 in hypothalamic neurons and is essential for anorexigenic effects of DRD2 agonism.

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Department of Metabolism and Aging, The Scripps Research Institute-Scripps Florida, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA.


We identified subsets of neurons in the brain that coexpress the dopamine receptor subtype-2 (DRD2) and the ghrelin receptor (GHSR1a). Combination of FRET confocal microscopy and Tr-FRET established the presence of GHSR1a:DRD2 heteromers in hypothalamic neurons. To interrogate function, mice were treated with the selective DRD2 agonist cabergoline, which produced anorexia in wild-type and ghrelin⁻/⁻ mice; intriguingly, ghsr⁻/⁻ mice were refractory illustrating dependence on GHSR1a, but not ghrelin. Elucidation of mechanism showed that formation of GHSR1a:DRD2 heteromers allosterically modifies canonical DRD2 dopamine signaling resulting in Gβγ subunit-dependent mobilization of [Ca²⁺](i) independent of GHSR1a basal activity. By targeting the interaction between GHSR1a and DRD2 in wild-type mice with a highly selective GHSR1a antagonist (JMV2959) cabergoline-induced anorexia was blocked. Inhibiting dopamine signaling in subsets of neurons with a GHSR1a antagonist has profound therapeutic implications by providing enhanced selectivity because neurons expressing DRD2 alone would be unaffected.

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