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Mol Pharmacol. 2009 Mar;75(3):648-57. doi: 10.1124/mol.108.050427. Epub 2008 Dec 19.

Molecular mechanisms of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor-induced calcium signaling.

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Johnson and Johnson Research and Development, CNS Research, Beerse, Belgium.


The molecular mechanisms governing calcium signal transduction of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptors CRF(1) and CRF(2(a)) stably expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells were investigated. Calcium signaling strictly depended on intracellular calcium sources, and this is the first study to establish a prominent contribution of the three major G-protein families to CRF receptor-mediated calcium signaling. Overexpression of Galpha(q/11) and Galpha(16) led to leftward shifts of the agonist concentration-response curves. Blockade of Galpha(q/11) proteins by the small interfering RNA (siRNA) technology partially reduced agonist-mediated calcium responses in CRF(1)- and CRF(2(a))-expressing HEK293 cells, thereby proving a contribution of the G(q) protein family. A small but significant inhibition of calcium signaling was recorded by pharmacological inhibition of G(i/o) proteins with pertussis toxin treatment. This effect was mediated by direct binding of Gbetagamma subunits to phospholipase C. G(i/o) inhibition also elevated cAMP responses in CRF receptor-overexpressing HEK293 cells and in Y79 retinoblastoma cells endogenously expressing human CRF(1) and CRF(2(a)) receptors, thereby demonstrating natural coupling of G(i) proteins to both CRF receptors. The strongest reduction of CRF receptor-mediated calcium mobilization was noted when blocking the G(s) signaling protein either by cholera toxin or by siRNA. It is noteworthy that simultaneous inhibition of two G-proteins shed light on the additive effects of G(s) and G(q) on the calcium signaling and, hence, that they act in parallel. On the other hand, G(i) coupling required prior G(s) activation.

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