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J Biol Chem. 2012 Sep 28;287(40):33488-502. Epub 2012 Jul 30.

Modulation of constitutive activity and signaling bias of the ghrelin receptor by conformational constraint in the second extracellular loop.

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Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, University of Copenhagen, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.


Based on a rare, natural Glu for Ala-204(C+6) variant located six residues after the conserved Cys residue in extracellular loop 2b (ECL2b) associated with selective elimination of the high constitutive signaling of the ghrelin receptor, this loop was subjected to a detailed structure functional analysis. Introduction of Glu in different positions demonstrated that although the constitutive signaling was partly reduced when introduced in position 205(C+7) it was only totally eliminated in position 204(C+6). No charge-charge interaction partner could be identified for the Glu(C+6) variant despite mutational analysis of a number of potential partners in the extracellular loops and outer parts of the transmembrane segments. Systematic probing of position 204(C+6) with amino acid residues of different physicochemical properties indicated that a positively charged Lys surprisingly provided phenotypes similar to those of the negatively charged Glu residue. Computational chemistry analysis indicated that the propensity for the C-terminal segment of extracellular loop 2b to form an extended α-helix was increased from 15% in the wild type to 89 and 82% by introduction in position 204(C+6) of a Glu or a Lys residue, respectively. Moreover, the constitutive activity of the receptor was inhibited by Zn(2+) binding in an engineered metal ion site, stabilizing an α-helical conformation of this loop segment. It is concluded that the high constitutive activity of the ghrelin receptor is dependent upon flexibility in the C-terminal segment of extracellular loop 2 and that mutations or ligand binding that constrains this segment and thereby conceivably the movements of transmembrane domain V relative to transmembrane domain III inhibits the high constitutive signaling.

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