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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 10;115(15):3834-3839. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1722336115. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Sortase ligation enables homogeneous GPCR phosphorylation to reveal diversity in β-arrestin coupling.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.
Department of Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.
Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158.
Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158.
Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.
Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710;


The ability of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) to initiate complex cascades of cellular signaling is governed by the sequential coupling of three main transducer proteins, G protein, GPCR kinase (GRK), and β-arrestin. Mounting evidence indicates these transducers all have distinct conformational preferences and binding modes. However, interrogating each transducer's mechanism of interaction with GPCRs has been complicated by the interplay of transducer-mediated signaling events. For example, GRK-mediated receptor phosphorylation recruits and induces conformational changes in β-arrestin, which facilitates coupling to the GPCR transmembrane core. Here we compare the allosteric interactions of G proteins and β-arrestins with GPCRs' transmembrane cores by using the enzyme sortase to ligate a synthetic phosphorylated peptide onto the carboxyl terminus of three different receptors. Phosphopeptide ligation onto the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) allows stabilization of a high-affinity receptor active state by β-arrestin1, permitting us to define elements in the β2AR and β-arrestin1 that contribute to the receptor transmembrane core interaction. Interestingly, ligation of the identical phosphopeptide onto the β2AR, the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor 2 and the μ-opioid receptor reveals that the ability of β-arrestin1 to enhance agonist binding relative to G protein differs substantially among receptors. Furthermore, strong allosteric coupling of β-arrestin1 correlates with its ability to attenuate, or "desensitize," G protein activation in vitro. Sortase ligation thus provides a versatile method to introduce complex, defined phosphorylation patterns into GPCRs, and analogous strategies could be applied to other classes of posttranslationally modified proteins. These homogeneously phosphorylated GPCRs provide an innovative means to systematically study receptor-transducer interactions.


G protein-coupled receptor; allostery; phosphorylation; sortase; β-arrestin

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