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1.  Quantitative Modeling of GRK-Mediated β2AR Regulation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(1):e1000647.
We developed a unified model of the GRK-mediated β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) regulation that simultaneously accounts for six different biochemical measurements of the system obtained over a wide range of agonist concentrations. Using a single deterministic model we accounted for (1) GRK phosphorylation in response to various full and partial agonists; (2) dephosphorylation of the GRK site on the β2AR; (3) β2AR internalization; (4) recycling of the β2AR post isoproterenol treatment; (5) β2AR desensitization; and (6) β2AR resensitization. Simulations of our model show that plasma membrane dephosphorylation and recycling of the phosphorylated receptor are necessary to adequately account for the measured dephosphorylation kinetics. We further used the model to predict the consequences of (1) modifying rates such as GRK phosphorylation of the receptor, arrestin binding and dissociation from the receptor, and receptor dephosphorylation that should reflect effects of knockdowns and overexpressions of these components; and (2) varying concentration and frequency of agonist stimulation “seen” by the β2AR to better mimic hormonal, neurophysiological and pharmacological stimulations of the β2AR. Exploring the consequences of rapid pulsatile agonist stimulation, we found that although resensitization was rapid, the β2AR system retained the memory of the previous stimuli and desensitized faster and much more strongly in response to subsequent stimuli. The latent memory that we predict is due to slower membrane dephosphorylation, which allows for progressive accumulation of phosphorylated receptor on the surface. This primes the receptor for faster arrestin binding on subsequent agonist activation leading to a greater extent of desensitization. In summary, the model is unique in accounting for the behavior of the β2AR system across multiple types of biochemical measurements using a single set of experimentally constrained parameters. It also provides insight into how the signaling machinery can retain memory of prior stimulation long after near complete resensitization has been achieved.
Author Summary
The β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) is involved in regulating many cellular processes such as smooth muscle relaxation in the airways and the vasculature. Drugs that activate the β2AR are used in treating asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and prolonged use of these drugs leads to the loss of their effects. Thus, a dynamic model of how the β2AR responds to different drugs is fundamental to their rational use. In this study a consensus model of G protein coupled receptor kinase (GRK)-mediated receptor regulation was formulated based on quantitative measures of six processes involved in β2AR regulation. This model was then used to simulate the consequences of manipulating key rates associated with the GRK-mediated β2AR regulation, leading to predictions which will provide a useful framework for further tests and elaborations of the model in basic and clinical research.
PMCID: PMC2798957  PMID: 20098494
2.  ASM-024, a Piperazinium Compound, Promotes the In Vitro Relaxation of β2-Adrenoreceptor Desensitized Tracheas 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0120095.
Inhaled β2-adrenoreceptor agonists are widely used in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for bronchoconstriction relief. β2-adrenoreceptor agonists relax airway smooth muscle cells via cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) mediated pathways. However, prolonged stimulation induces functional desensitization of the β2-adrenoreceptors (β2-AR), potentially leading to reduced clinical efficacy with chronic or prolonged administration. ASM-024, a small synthetic molecule in clinical stage development, has shown activity at the level of nicotinic receptors and possibly at the muscarinic level and presents anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator properties. Aerosolized ASM-024 reduces airway resistance in mice and promotes in-vitro relaxation of tracheal and bronchial preparations from animal and human tissues. ASM-024 increased in vitro relaxation response to maximally effective concentration of short—acting beta-2 agonists in dog and human bronchi. Although the precise mechanisms by which ASM-024 promotes airway smooth muscle (ASM) relaxation remain unclear, we hypothesized that ASM-024 will attenuate and/or abrogate agonist-induced contraction and remain effective despite β2-AR tachyphylaxis. β2-AR tachyphylaxis was induced with salbutamol, salmeterol and formoterol on guinea pig tracheas. The addition of ASM-024 relaxed concentration-dependently intact or β2-AR desensitized tracheal rings precontracted with methacholine. ASM-024 did not induce any elevation of intracellular cAMP in isolated smooth muscle cells; moreover, blockade of the cAMP pathway with an adenylate cyclase inhibitor had no significant effect on ASM-024-induced guinea pig trachea relaxation. Collectively, these findings show that ASM-024 elicits relaxation of β2-AR desensitized tracheal preparations and suggest that ASM-024 mediates smooth muscle relaxation through a different target and signaling pathway than β2-adrenergic receptor agonists. These findings suggest ASM-024 could potentially provide clinical benefit when used adjunctively with inhaled β2-adrenoreceptor agonists in those patients exhibiting a reduced response to their chronic use.
PMCID: PMC4370676  PMID: 25799096
3.  Homologous desensitization of signalling by the alpha (α) isoform of the human thromboxane A2 receptor: A specific role for nitric oxide signalling 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2007;1773(6):970-989.
Thromboxane (TX) A2 plays a central role in hemostasis, regulating platelet activation status and vascular tone. We have recently established that the TPβ isoform of the human TXA2 receptor (TP) undergoes rapid, agonist-induced homologous desensitization of signalling largely through a G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK) 2/3-dependent mechanism with a lesser role for protein kinase (PK) C. Herein, we investigated the mechanism of desensitization of signalling by the TPα isoform. TPα undergoes profound agonist-induced desensitization of signalling (intracellular calcium mobilization and inositol 1,4,5 trisphosphate generation) in response to the TXA2 mimetic U46619 but, unlike that of TPβ, this is independent of GRKs. Similar to TPβ, TPα undergoes partial agonist-induced desensitization that occurs through a GF 109203X-sensitive, PKC mechanism where Ser145 within intracellular domain (IC)2 represents the key phospho-target. TPα also undergoes more profound sustained PKC- and PKG-dependent desensitization where Thr337 and Ser331, respectively, within its unique C-tail domain were identified as the phospho-targets. Desensitization was impaired by the nitric oxide synthase (NOS), soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) and PKG inhibitors l-NAME, LY 83583 and KT5823, respectively, indicating that homologous desensitization of TPα involves nitric oxide generation and signalling. Consistent with this, U46619 led to rapid phosphorylation/activation of endogenous eNOS. Collectively, data herein suggest a mechanism whereby agonist-induced PKC phosphorylation of Ser145 partially and transiently impairs TPα signalling while PKG- and PKC-phosphorylation at both Ser331 and Thr337, respectively, within its C-tail domain profoundly desensitizes TPα, effectively terminating its signalling. Hence, in addition to the agonist-mediated PKC feedback mechanism, U46619-activation of the NOS/sGC/PKG pathway plays a significant role in inducing homologous desensitization of TPα.
PMCID: PMC2680961  PMID: 17466390
C-tail, carboxyl-terminal tail; [Ca2+]i, intracellular calcium; COX, cyclooxygenase; FBS, foetal bovine serum; GPCR, G protein-coupled receptor; GRK, G protein-coupled receptor kinase; HA, hemagglutinin; HEK, human embryonic kidney; IP, prostacyclin receptor; IP3, inositol 1, 4, 5-trisphosphate; NO, nitric oxide; NOS, nitric oxide synthase; PAGE, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; PG, prostaglandin; PK, protein kinase; PL, phospholipase; sGC, soluble guanylyl cyclase; TP, TXA2 receptor; TX, thromboxane; Thromboxane receptor; Alpha; Desensitization; Phosphorylation; Nitric oxide; G protein coupled receptor
4.  Multiple functions of G protein-coupled receptor kinases 
Desensitization is a physiological feedback mechanism that blocks detrimental effects of persistent stimulation. G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) was originally identified as the kinase that mediates G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) desensitization. Subsequent studies revealed that GRK is a family composed of seven isoforms (GRK1–GRK7). Each GRK shows a differential expression pattern. GRK1, GRK4, and GRK7 are expressed in limited tissues. In contrast, GRK2, GRK3, GRK5, and GRK6 are ubiquitously expressed throughout the body. The roles of GRKs in GPCR desensitization are well established. When GPCRs are activated by their agonists, GRKs phosphorylate serine/threonine residues in the intracellular loops and the carboxyl-termini of GPCRs. Phosphorylation promotes translocation of β-arrestins to the receptors and inhibits further G protein activation by interrupting receptor-G protein coupling. The binding of β-arrestins to the receptors also helps to promote receptor internalization by clathrin-coated pits. Thus, the GRK-catalyzed phosphorylation and subsequent binding of β-arrestin to GPCRs are believed to be the common mechanism of GPCR desensitization and internalization. Recent studies have revealed that GRKs are also involved in the β-arrestin-mediated signaling pathway. The GRK-mediated phosphorylation of the receptors plays opposite roles in conventional G protein- and β-arrestin-mediated signaling. The GRK-catalyzed phosphorylation of the receptors results in decreased G protein-mediated signaling, but it is necessary for β-arrestin-mediated signaling. Agonists that selectively activate GRK/β-arrestin-dependent signaling without affecting G protein signaling are known as β-arrestin-biased agonists. Biased agonists are expected to have potential therapeutic benefits for various diseases due to their selective activation of favorable physiological responses or avoidance of the side effects of drugs. Furthermore, GRKs are recognized as signaling mediators that are independent of either G protein- or β-arrestin-mediated pathways. GRKs can phosphorylate non-GPCR substrates, and this is found to be involved in various physiological responses, such as cell motility, development, and inflammation. In addition to these effects, our group revealed that GRK6 expressed in macrophages mediates the removal of apoptotic cells (engulfment) in a kinase activity-dependent manner. These studies revealed that GRKs block excess stimulus and also induce cellular responses. Here, we summarized the involvement of GRKs in β-arrestin-mediated and G protein-independent signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3973964  PMID: 24597858
G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK); Cell signaling; Biased agonist
5.  The Cellular and Molecular Basis of Bitter Tastant-Induced Bronchodilation 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(3):e1001501.
Bitter tastants can activate bitter taste receptors on constricted smooth muscle cells to inhibit L-type calcium channels and induce bronchodilation.
Bronchodilators are a standard medicine for treating airway obstructive diseases, and β2 adrenergic receptor agonists have been the most commonly used bronchodilators since their discovery. Strikingly, activation of G-protein-coupled bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) in airway smooth muscle (ASM) causes a stronger bronchodilation in vitro and in vivo than β2 agonists, implying that new and better bronchodilators could be developed. A critical step towards realizing this potential is to understand the mechanisms underlying this bronchodilation, which remain ill-defined. An influential hypothesis argues that bitter tastants generate localized Ca2+ signals, as revealed in cultured ASM cells, to activate large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels, which in turn hyperpolarize the membrane, leading to relaxation. Here we report that in mouse primary ASM cells bitter tastants neither evoke localized Ca2+ events nor alter spontaneous local Ca2+ transients. Interestingly, they increase global intracellular [Ca2+]i, although to a much lower level than bronchoconstrictors. We show that these Ca2+ changes in cells at rest are mediated via activation of the canonical bitter taste signaling cascade (i.e., TAS2R-gustducin-phospholipase Cβ [PLCβ]- inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptor [IP3R]), and are not sufficient to impact airway contractility. But activation of TAS2Rs fully reverses the increase in [Ca2+]i induced by bronchoconstrictors, and this lowering of the [Ca2+]i is necessary for bitter tastant-induced ASM cell relaxation. We further show that bitter tastants inhibit L-type voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels (VDCCs), resulting in reversal in [Ca2+]i, and this inhibition can be prevented by pertussis toxin and G-protein βγ subunit inhibitors, but not by the blockers of PLCβ and IP3R. Together, we suggest that TAS2R stimulation activates two opposing Ca2+ signaling pathways via Gβγ to increase [Ca2+]i at rest while blocking activated L-type VDCCs to induce bronchodilation of contracted ASM. We propose that the large decrease in [Ca2+]i caused by effective tastant bronchodilators provides an efficient cell-based screening method for identifying potent dilators from among the many thousands of available bitter tastants.
Author Summary
Bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs), a G-protein-coupled receptor family long thought to be solely expressed in taste buds on the tongue, have recently been detected in airways. Bitter substances can activate TAS2Rs in airway smooth muscle to cause greater bronchodilation than β2 adrenergic receptor agonists, the most commonly used bronchodilators. However, the mechanisms underlying this bronchodilation remain elusive. Here we show that, in resting primary airway smooth muscle cells, bitter tastants activate a TAS2R-dependent signaling pathway that results in an increase in intracellular calcium levels, albeit to a level much lower than that produced by bronchoconstrictors. In bronchoconstricted cells, however, bitter tastants reverse the bronchoconstrictor-induced increase in calcium levels, which leads to the relaxation of smooth muscle cells. We find that this reversal is due to inhibition of L-type calcium channels. Our results suggest that under normal conditions, bitter tastants can activate TAS2Rs to modestly increase calcium levels, but that when smooth muscle cells are constricted, they can block L-type calcium channels to induce bronchodilation. We postulate that this novel mechanism could operate in other extraoral cells expressing TAS2Rs.
PMCID: PMC3589262  PMID: 23472053
6.  Agonist-induced internalization and desensitization of the apelin receptor 
Apelin acts via the G protein-coupled apelin receptor (APJ) to mediate effects on cardiovascular and fluid homeostasis. G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) trafficking has an important role in the regulation of receptor signalling pathways and cellular functions, however in the case of APJ the mechanisms and proteins involved in apelin-induced trafficking are not well understood. We generated a stable HEK-293 cell line expressing N-terminus HA-tagged mouse (m) APJ, and used a semi-automated imaging protocol to quantitate APJ trafficking and ERK1/2 activation following stimulation with [Pyr1]apelin-13. The mechanisms of [Pyr1]apelin-13-induced internalization and desensitization were explored using dominant-negative mutant (DNM) cDNA constructs of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2), β-arrestin1, EPS15 and dynamin. The di-phosphorylated ERK1/2 (ppERK1/2) response to [Pyr1]apelin-13 desensitized during sustained stimulation, due to upstream APJ-specific adaptive changes. Furthermore, [Pyr1]apelin-13 stimulation caused internalization of mAPJ via clathrin coated vesicles (CCVs) and also caused a rapid reduction in cell surface and whole cell HA-mAPJ. Our data suggest that upon continuous agonist exposure GRK2-mediated phosphorylation targets APJ to CCVs that are internalized from the cell surface in a β-arrestin1-independent, EPS15- and dynamin-dependent manner. Internalization does not appear to contribute to the desensitization of APJ-mediated ppERK1/2 activation in these cells.
•Agonist exposure induces internalization and reduction in cell surface APJ levels.•ERK1/2 response to [Pyr1]apelin-13 desensitizes rapidly during sustained stimulation.•Desensitization of ERK1/2 response is due to upstream APJ-specific adaptive changes.•Internalization is EPS15-, dynamin- and GRK2-dependent but β-arrestin-independent.•Desensitization response is independent of dynamin, GRK2 and β-arrestin.
PMCID: PMC5062952  PMID: 27492965
G protein-coupled receptor; Apelin; Apelin receptor; Intracellular trafficking; Signalling; Extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK); APJ, apelin receptor; βARR, β-arrestin1; BIM, bisindolylmaleimide I; CME, clathrin-mediated endocytosis; CCV, clathrin coated vesicle; DNM, dominant-negative mutant; DYN, dynamin; eGFP, enhanced green fluorescent protein; FCS, fetal calf serum; GRK, G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2; m, mouse; NGS, normal goat serum; P, penicillin; P70S6K, S6 ribosomal protein kinase; PCSE, proportional cell surface expression; PTX, pertussis toxin; S, streptomycin; U0126, 1,4-diamino-2,3-dicyano-1,4-bis[2-aminophenylthio] butadiene
7.  Defective Resensitization in Human Airway Smooth Muscle Cells Evokes β-Adrenergic Receptor Dysfunction in Severe Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0125803.
β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) agonists (β2-agonist) are the most commonly used therapy for acute relief in asthma, but chronic use of these bronchodilators paradoxically exacerbates airway hyper-responsiveness. Activation of βARs by β-agonist leads to desensitization (inactivation) by phosphorylation through G-protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) which mediate β-arrestin binding and βAR internalization. Resensitization occurs by dephosphorylation of the endosomal βARs which recycle back to the plasma membrane as agonist-ready receptors. To determine whether the loss in β-agonist response in asthma is due to altered βAR desensitization and/or resensitization, we used primary human airway smooth muscle cells (HASMCs) isolated from the lungs of non-asthmatic and fatal-asthmatic subjects. Asthmatic HASMCs have diminished adenylyl cyclase activity and cAMP response to β-agonist as compared to non-asthmatic HASMCs. Confocal microscopy showed significant accumulation of phosphorylated β2ARs in asthmatic HASMCs. Systematic analysis of desensitization components including GRKs and β-arrestin showed no appreciable differences between asthmatic and non-asthmatic HASMCs. However, asthmatic HASMC showed significant increase in PI3Kγ activity and was associated with reduction in PP2A activity. Since reduction in PP2A activity could alter receptor resensitization, endosomal fractions were isolated to assess the agonist ready β2ARs as a measure of resensitization. Despite significant accumulation of β2ARs in the endosomes of asthmatic HASMCs, endosomal β2ARs cannot robustly activate adenylyl cyclase. Furthermore, endosomes from asthmatic HASMCs are associated with significant increase in PI3Kγ and reduced PP2A activity that inhibits β2AR resensitization. Our study shows that resensitization, a process considered to be a homeostasis maintaining passive process is inhibited in asthmatic HASMCs contributing to β2AR dysfunction which may underlie asthma pathophysiology and loss in asthma control.
PMCID: PMC4449172  PMID: 26023787
8.  Endogenous Gs-Coupled Receptors in Smooth Muscle Exhibit Differential Susceptibility to GRK2/3-Mediated Desensitization† 
Biochemistry  2008;47(35):9279-9288.
Although G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) kinases (GRKs) have been shown to mediate desensitization of numerous GPCRs in studies using cellular expression systems, their function under physiological conditions is less well understood. In the current study, we employed various strategies to assess the effect of inhibiting endogenous GRK2/3 on signaling and function of endogenously expressed Gs-coupled receptors in human airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells. GRK2/3 inhibition by expression of a Gβγ sequestrant, a GRK2/3 dominant-negative mutant, or siRNA-mediated knockdown increased intracellular cAMP accumulation mediated via β-agonist stimulation of the beta-2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR). Conversely, neither 5′-(N-ethylcarboxamido)-adenosine (NECA; activating the A2b adenosine receptor) nor prostaglandin E2 (PGE2; activating EP2 or EP4 receptors)-stimulated cAMP was significantly increased by GRK2/3 inhibition. Selective knockdown using siRNA suggested the majority of PGE2-stimulated cAMP in ASM was mediated by the EP2 receptor. Although a minor role for EP3 receptors in influencing PGE2-mediated cAMP was determined, the GRK2/3-resistant nature of EP2 receptor signaling in ASM was confirmed using the EP2-selective agonist butaprost. Somewhat surprisingly, GRK2/3 inhibition did not augment the inhibitory effect of the β-agonist on mitogen-stimulated increases in ASM growth. These findings demonstrate that with respect to Gs-coupled receptors in ASM, GRK2/3 selectively attenuates β2AR signaling, yet relief of GRK2/3-dependent β2AR desensitization does not influence at least one important physiological function of the receptor.
PMCID: PMC2947145  PMID: 18690720
9.  β2-Adrenergic Receptors Chaperone Trapped Bitter Taste Receptor 14 to the Cell Surface as a Heterodimer and Exert Unidirectional Desensitization of Taste Receptor Function* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2016;291(34):17616-17628.
Bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) are G-protein-coupled receptors now recognized to be expressed on extraoral cells, including airway smooth muscle (ASM) where they evoke relaxation. TAS2Rs are difficult to express in heterologous systems, with most receptors being trapped intracellularly. We find, however, that co-expression of β2-adrenergic receptors (β2AR) in HEK-293T routes TAS2R14 to the cell surface by forming receptor heterodimers. Cell surface TAS2R14 expression was increased by ∼5-fold when β2AR was co-expressed. Heterodimer formation was shown by co-immunoprecipitation with tagged receptors, biomolecular fluorescence complementation, and merged confocal images. The dynamic nature of this interaction was shown by: a gene-dose relationship between transfected β2AR and TAS2R14 expression, enhanced (up to 3-fold) TAS2R14 agonist stimulation of [Ca2+]i with β2AR co-transfection, ∼53% decrease in [Ca2+]i signaling with shRNA knockdown of β2AR in H292 cells, and ∼60% loss of [Ca2+]i responsiveness in βAR knock-out mouse ASM. Once expressed on the surface, we detected unidirectional, conformation-dependent, interaction within the heterodimer, with β2AR activation rapidly uncoupling TAS2R14 function (∼65% desensitization). Cross-talk was independent of β2AR internalization and cAMP/PKA, and not accompanied by TAS2R14 internalization. With prolonged β-agonist exposure, TAS2R14 internalized, consistent with slow recycling of naked TAS2R14 in the absence of the heterodimeric milieu. In studies of ASM mechanics, rapid cross-talk was confirmed at the physiologic level, where relaxation from TAS2R14 agonist was decreased by ∼50% with β-agonist co-treatment. Thus the β2AR acts as a double-edged sword: increasing TAS2R14 cell surface expression, but when activated by β-agonist, partially offsetting the expression phenotype by direct receptor:receptor desensitization of TAS2R14 function.
PMCID: PMC5016158  PMID: 27342779
asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); cyclic AMP (cAMP); dimerization; G protein; receptor internalization; smooth muscle; bitter taste receptor
10.  Desensitization of Human CRF2(a) Receptor Signaling Governed by Agonist Potency and βArrestin2 Recruitment 
Regulatory peptides  2013;186:62-76.
The primary goal was to determine agonist-specific regulation of CRF2(a) receptor function. Exposure of human retinoblastoma Y79 cells to selective (UCN2, UCN3 or stresscopins) and nonselective (UCN1 or sauvagine) agonists prominently desensitized CRF2(a) receptors in a rapid, concentration-dependent manner. A considerably slower rate and smaller magnitude of desensitization developed in response to the weak agonist CRF. CRF1 receptor desensitization stimulated by CRF, cortagine or stressin1-A had no effect on CRF2(a) receptor cyclic AMP signaling. Conversely, desensitization of CRF2(a) receptors by UCN2 or UCN3 did not cross-desensitize Gs-coupled CRF1 receptor signaling. In transfected HEK293 cells, activation of CRF2(a) receptors by UCN2, UCN3 or CRF resulted in receptor phosphorylation and internalization proportional to agonist potency. Neither protein kinase A nor casein kinases mediated CRF2(a) receptor phosphorylation or desensitization. Exposure of HEK293 or U2OS cells to UCN2 or UCN3 (100 nM) produced strong βarrestin2 translocation and colocalization with membrane CRF2(a) receptors while CRF (1 µM) generated only weak βarrestin2 recruitment. βarrestin2 did not internalize with the receptor, however, indicating that transient CRF2(a) receptor-arrestin complexes dissociate at or near the cell membrane. Since deletion of the βarrestin2 gene upregulated Gs-coupled CRF2(a) receptor signaling in MEF cells, a βarrestin2 mechanism restrains Gs-coupled CRF2(a) receptor signaling activated by urocortins. We further conclude the rate and extent of homologous CRF2(a) receptor desensitization are governed by agonist-specific mechanisms affecting GRK phosphorylation, βarrestin2 recruitment, and internalization thereby producing unique signal transduction profiles that differentially affect the stress response.
PMCID: PMC3924877  PMID: 23820308
11.  Enhanced expression of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 selectively increases the sensitivity of A2A adenosine receptors to agonist-induced desensitization 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1998;125(2):347-356.
G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) are thought to be important in mediating the agonist-induced phosphorylation and consequent desensitization of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) responses. We have previously shown that stable expression of a dominant negative mutant G protein- coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) construct in NG108-15 mouse neuroblastoma x rat glioma cells suppresses the agonist-induced desensitization of A2A and A2B adenosine receptor-stimulated adenylyl cyclase activity (Mundell et al., 1997). To further determine the role of GRK2 in agonist-induced desensitization of these adenosine receptors, we stably overexpressed wild type GRK2 in NG108-15 cells.In homogenates prepared from cells overexpressing GRK2, the acute stimulation of adenylyl cyclase by activation of A2A and A2B adenosine receptors was markedly reduced, but could be reversed by pretreating the cells with AD (adenosine deaminase), to remove extracellular adenosine from the medium. On the other hand, acute stimulation of adenylyl cyclase by secretin, iloprost, NaF and forskolin was the same in GRK2 overexpressing cells and plasmid-transfected control cells.Cells overexpressing GRK2 were more sensitive to adenosine receptor agonist-induced desensitization than plasmid-transfected control cells. This effect was selective since the agonist sensitivity of desensitization for secretin and IP-prostanoid receptor-stimulated adenylyl cyclase activity was not affected by GRK2 overexpression.These results further implicate GRK2 as the likely mechanism by which A2 adenosine receptors undergo short-term desensitization in NG108-15 cells, and indicate that even when overexpressed, GRK2 retains its substrate specificity for native receptors in intact cells. Furthermore, the susceptibility of GPCRs to desensitization appears to depend on the level of GRK expression, such that in cells that express high levels of GRK2, low agonist concentrations may be sufficient to trigger GRK-mediated desensitization.
PMCID: PMC1565629  PMID: 9786508
G protein-coupled receptor; G protein-coupled receptor kinase; desensitization; A2 adenosine receptor; NG108-15 cells
12.  Lentivirus vector-mediated Rho guanine nucleotide dissociation inhibitor 2 induces beta-2 adrenergic receptor desensitization in β2AR desensitization mice model 
Journal of Thoracic Disease  2014;6(2):118-125.
It is well-known that chronic administration of β2AR agonists can induce β2AR desensitization. Our previous study showed that Rho guanine nucleotide dissociation inhibitor 2 (RhoGDI2) overexpression induced beta-2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) desensitization in airway smooth muscle cells. The purpose of this study was to further study the function of RhoGDI2 in β2AR desensitization by β2AR desensitization mouse model.
Studies were performed using a β2AR desensitization mice model induced by salbutamol. The mice were randomly divided into five groups (n=45): RhoGDI2 overexpression group (n=10); RhoGDI2 siRNA group (n=10); empty viral vector group (n=10); experimental control group (n=10); blank control group—without any drug treatment (n=5). The first four groups were used the same methods and the same dose to establish β2AR desensitization mice model by salbutamol. The first three groups that salbutamol-treated were used for intratracheal delivery of lentiviral vectors. Airway hyperreactivity was measured through a whole-body plethysmograph system. RhoGDI2, β2AR, GRK2 mRNA and protein expression levels were then detected by RT-PCR and western blot analyses in fresh lung tissues. As well as the activity of GRK was assessed by light-dependent phosphorylation of rhodopsin.
We successfully constructed β2AR desensitization mouse model. As expected, airway responsiveness after inhaling acetylcholine chloride (Ach) was markedly increased in the RhoGDI2 overexpression group compared to experimental control group and blank control group when concentrations of Ach was 45 mg/mL (all P<0.05), while, it was markedly decreased in the RhoGDI2 siRNA group compared to experimental control group (P<0.05). RhoGDI2, GRK2 expressions and GRK enzymatic activity were significantly increased in RhoGDI2 overexpression group compared to experimental control group and blank control group (all P<0.05). RhoGDI2, GRK2 expressions and GRK enzymatic activity were significantly decreased in RhoGDI2 siRNA group compared to experimental control group and blank control group (all P<0.05). Conversely, β2AR expression were significantly lower in RhoGDI2 overexpression group compared to experimental control group and blank control group (all P<0.05), exhibiting an inverse correlation with RhoGDI2 expression.
To sum up, our present studies found that RhoGDI2 might induce β2AR desensitization and GRK2 might take part in RhoGDI2-mediated β2AR desensitization.
PMCID: PMC3944182  PMID: 24605225
Rho guanine nucleotide dissociation inhibitor 2 (RhoGDI2); GRK2; β2AR desensitization; lentivirus vector
13.  Arrestin–dependent but G–protein coupled receptor kinase–independent uncoupling of D2–dopamine receptors 
Journal of neurochemistry  2013;127(1):57-65.
We reconstituted D2 like dopamine receptor (D2R) and the delta opioid receptor (DOR) coupling to G-protein gated inwardly rectifying potassium channels (Kir3) and directly compared the effects of co-expression of G-protein coupled receptor kinase (GRK) and arrestin on agonist-dependent desensitization of the receptor response. We found, as described previously, that co-expression of a GRK and an arrestin synergistically increased the rate of agonist-dependent desensitization of DOR. In contrast, only arrestin expression was required to produce desensitization of D2R responses. Furthermore, arrestin-dependent GRK-independent desensitization of D2R-Kir3 coupling could be transferred to DOR by substituting the third cytoplasmic loop of DOR with that of D2R. The arrestin-dependent GRK-independent desensitization of D2R desensitization was inhibited by staurosporine treatment, and blocked by alanine substitution of putative protein kinase C phosphorylation sites in the third cytoplasmic loop of D2R. Finally, the D2R construct in which putative protein kinase C phosphorylation sites were mutated did not undergo significant agonist-dependent desensitization even after GRK co-expression, suggesting that GRK phosphorylation of D2R does not play an important role in uncoupling of the receptor.
PMCID: PMC4825321  PMID: 23815307
arrestin; D2 dopamine receptor; desensitization; G-protein coupled receptor kinase; protein kinase C; uncoupling
14.  G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 and arrestin2 regulate arterial smooth muscle P2Y-purinoceptor signalling 
Cardiovascular Research  2010;89(1):193-203.
Prolonged P2Y-receptor signalling can cause vasoconstriction leading to hypertension, vascular smooth muscle hypertrophy, and hyperplasia. G protein-coupled receptor signalling is negatively regulated by G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) and arrestin proteins, preventing prolonged or inappropriate signalling. This study investigates whether GRKs and arrestins regulate uridine 5′-triphosphate (UTP)-stimulated contractile signalling in adult Wistar rat mesenteric arterial smooth muscle cells (MSMCs).
Methods and results
Mesenteric arteries contracted in response to UTP challenge: When an EC50 UTP concentration (30 µM, 5 min) was added 5 min before (R1) and after (R2) the addition of a maximal UTP concentration (Rmax: 100 µM, 5 min), R2 responses were decreased relative to R1, indicating desensitization. UTP-induced P2Y-receptor desensitization of phospholipase C signalling was studied in isolated MSMCs transfected with an inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate biosensor and/or loaded with Ca2+-sensitive dyes. A similar protocol (R1/R2 = 10 µM; Rmax = 100 µM, applied for 30 s) revealed markedly reduced R2 when compared with R1 responses. MSMCs were transfected with dominant-negative GRKs or siRNAs targeting specific GRK/arrestins to probe their respective roles in P2Y-receptor desensitization. GRK2 inhibition, but not GRK3, GRK5, or GRK6, attenuated P2Y-receptor desensitization. siRNA-mediated knockdown of arrestin2 attenuated UTP-stimulated P2Y-receptor desensitization, whereas arrestin3 depletion did not. Specific siRNA knockdown of the P2Y2-receptor almost completely abolished UTP-stimulated IP3/Ca2+ signalling, strongly suggesting that our study is specifically characterizing this purinoceptor subtype.
These new data highlight roles of GRK2 and arrestin2 as important regulators of UTP-stimulated P2Y2-receptor responsiveness in resistance arteries, emphasizing their potential importance in regulating vasoconstrictor signalling pathways implicated in vascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3002865  PMID: 20705669
UTP; G protein-coupled receptor kinase; Arrestin; P2Y-purinoceptor; Resistance artery
15.  Phosphorylation of C3a Receptor at Multiple Sites Mediates Desensitization, β-Arrestin-2 Recruitment and Inhibition of NF-κB Activity in Mast Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46369.
Phosphorylation of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) by G protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) and the subsequent recruitment of β-arrestins are important for their desensitization. Using shRNA-mediated gene silencing strategy, we have recently shown that GRK2, GRK3 and β-arrestin-2 promote C3a receptor (C3aR) desensitization in human mast cells. We also demonstrated that β-arrestin-2 provides an inhibitory signal for NF-κB activation. C3aR possesses ten potential phosphorylation sites within its carboxyl terminus but their role on desensitization, β-arrestin recruitment and NF-κB activation has not been determined.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We utilized a site directed mutagenesis approach in transfected HEK293 cells to determine the role of receptor phosphorylation on β-arrestin-2 recruitment and RBL-2H3 cells for functional studies. We found that although Ala substitution of Ser475/479, Thr480/481 residues resulted in 58±3.8% decrease in agonist-induced C3aR phosphorylation there was no change in β-arrestin-2 binding or receptor desensitization. By contrast, Ala substitution of Thr463, Ser465, Thr466 and Ser470 led to 40±1.3% decrease in agonist-induced receptor phosphorylation but this was associated with 74±2.4% decreases in β-arrestin-2 binding, significantly reduced desensitization and enhanced NF-κB activation. Combined mutation of these Ser/Thr residues along with Ser459 (mutant MT7), resulted in complete loss of receptor phosphorylation and β-arrestin-2 binding. RBL-2H3 cells expressing MT7 responded to C3a for greater Ca2+ mobilization, degranulation and NF-κB activation when compared to the wild-type receptor. Interestingly, co-expression of MT7 with a constitutively active mutant of β-arrestin (R169E) inhibited C3a-induced degranulation by 28±2.4% and blocked NF-κB activation by 80±2.4%.
This study demonstrates that although C3a causes phosphorylation of its receptor at multiple sites, Ser459, Thr463, Ser465, Thr466 and Ser470 participate in C3aR desensitization, β-arrestin-2 recruitment and inhibition of NF-κB activity. Furthermore, β-arrestin-2 inhibits C3a-induced NF-κB activation via receptor desensitization-dependent and independent pathways.
PMCID: PMC3471852  PMID: 23077507
16.  Regulation of C3a Receptor Signaling in Human Mast Cells by G Protein Coupled Receptor Kinases 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22559.
The complement component C3a activates human mast cells via its cell surface G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) C3aR. For most GPCRs, agonist-induced receptor phosphorylation leads to receptor desensitization, internalization as well as activation of downstream signaling pathways such as ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Previous studies in transfected COS cells overexpressing G protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) demonstrated that GRK2, GRK3, GRK5 and GRK6 participate in agonist-induced C3aR phosphorylation. However, the roles of these GRKs on the regulation of C3aR signaling and mediator release in human mast cells remain unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We utilized lentivirus short hairpin (sh)RNA to stably knockdown the expression of GRK2, GRK3, GRK5 and GRK6 in human mast cell lines, HMC-1 and LAD2, that endogenously express C3aR. Silencing GRK2 or GRK3 expression caused a more sustained Ca2+ mobilization, attenuated C3aR desensitization, and enhanced degranulation as well as ERK1/2 phosphorylation when compared to shRNA control cells. By contrast, GRK5 or GRK6 knockdown had no effect on C3aR desensitization, but caused a significant decrease in C3a-induced mast cell degranulation. Interestingly, GRK5 or GRK6 knockdown rendered mast cells more responsive to C3a for ERK1/2 phosphorylation.
This study demonstrates that GRK2 and GRK3 are involved in C3aR desensitization. Furthermore, it reveals the novel finding that GRK5 and GRK6 promote C3a-induced mast cell degranulation but inhibit ERK1/2 phosphorylation via C3aR desensitization-independent mechanisms. These findings thus reveal a new level of complexity for C3aR regulation by GRKs in human mast cells.
PMCID: PMC3143157  PMID: 21799898
17.  Endothelin signalling in arterial smooth muscle is tightly regulated by G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 
Cardiovascular Research  2009;85(3):424-433.
Prolonged endothelin (ET) receptor signalling causes vasoconstriction and can lead to hypertension, vascular smooth muscle hypertrophy, and hyperplasia. Usually, G protein-coupled receptor signalling is negatively regulated by G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), preventing prolonged or inappropriate signalling. This study investigated whether GRKs regulate ET receptor contractile signalling in adult Wistar rat mesenteric arterial smooth muscle cells (MSMCs).
Methods and results
ET-1-stimulated phospholipase C (PLC) activity and changes in [Ca2+]i were assessed using confocal microscopy in rat MSMCs transfected with the pleckstrin-homology domain of PLCδ1 (eGFP-PH) and loaded with Fura-Red. ET-1 applications (30 s) stimulated transient concentration-dependent eGFP-PH translocations from plasma membrane to cytoplasm and graded [Ca2+]i increases. ET-1-mediated PLC signalling was blocked by the type A endothelin receptor (ETAR) antagonist, BQ123. To characterize ETAR desensitization, cells were stimulated with a maximally effective concentration of ET-1 (50 nM, 30 s) followed by a variable washout period and a second identical application of ET-1. This brief exposure to ET-1 markedly decreased ETAR responsiveness to re-challenge, and reversal was incomplete even after increasing the time period between agonist challenges to 60 min. To assess GRK involvement in ETAR desensitization, MSMCs were co-transfected with eGFP-PH and catalytically inactive D110A,K220RGRK2, D110A,K220RGRK3, K215RGRK5, or K215RGRK6 constructs. D110A,K220RGRK2 expression significantly attenuated ETAR desensitization, whereas other constructs were ineffective. Small interfering RNA-targeted GRK2 depletion equally attenuated ETAR desensitization. Finally, immunocyotchemical data showed that ETAR activation recruited endogenous GRK2 from cytoplasm to membrane.
These studies identify GRK2 as a key regulator of ETAR responsiveness in resistance arteries, highlighting the potential importance of this GRK isoenzyme in regulating vasoconstrictor signalling pathways implicated in vascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2802200  PMID: 19748906
Endothelin-1; Endothelin-A receptor; G protein-coupled receptor kinase; Receptor desensitization; Vasoconstriction; Resistance artery; Mesenteric
18.  Agonist-selective mechanisms of GPCR desensitization 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2007;153(Suppl 1):S379-S388.
The widely accepted model of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) regulation describes a system where the agonist-activated receptors couple to G proteins to induce a cellular response, and are subsequently phosphorylated by a family of kinases called the G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs). The GRK-phosphorylated receptor then acts as a substrate for the binding of a family of proteins called arrestins, which uncouple the receptor and G protein so desensitizing the agonist-induced response. Other kinases, principally the second messenger-dependent protein kinases, are also known to play a role in the desensitization of many GPCR responses. It is now clear that there are subtle and complex interactions between GRKs and second messenger-dependent protein kinases in the regulation of GPCR function. Functional selectivity describes the ability of agonists to stabilize different active conformations of the same GPCR. With regard to desensitization, distinct agonist-activated conformations of a GPCR could undergo different molecular mechanisms of desensitization. An example of this is the μ opioid receptor (MOPr), where the agonists morphine and [D-Ala2,N-MePhe4,Gly-ol5]enkephalin (DAMGO) induce desensitization of the MOPr by different mechanisms, largely protein kinase C (PKC)- or GRK-dependent, respectively. This can be best explained by supposing that these two agonists stabilize distinct conformations of the MOPr, which are nevertheless able to couple to the relevant G-proteins and produce similar responses, yet are sufficiently different to trigger different regulatory processes. There is evidence that other GPCRs also undergo agonist-selective desensitization, but the full therapeutic consequences of this phenomenon await further detailed study.
PMCID: PMC2268061  PMID: 18059321
GPCR; GRK; second messenger-dependent protein kinase; PKC; PKA; desensitization; functional selectivity; MOPr
19.  Arrestins differentially regulate histamine- and oxytocin-evoked phospholipase C and mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling in myometrial cells 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2011;162(7):1603-1617.
The uterotonins oxytocin and histamine, mediate contractile signals through specific G protein-coupled receptors, a process which is tightly controlled during gestation to prevent preterm labour. We previously identified G protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK)2 and GRK6 as respective cardinal negative regulators of histamine H1 and oxytocin receptor signalling. GRK-mediated phosphorylation promotes arrestin recruitment, not only desensitizing receptors but activating an increasing number of diverse signalling pathways. Here we investigate potential roles that arrestins play in the regulation of myometrial oxytocin/histamine H1 receptor signalling.
Endogenous arrestins2 and 3 were specifically depleted using RNA-interference in a human myometrial cell line and the consequences of this for G protein-coupled receptor-mediated signalling were assessed using Ca2+/inositol 1,4,5-trisphophate imaging and standard mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) assays.
Depletion of arrestin3, but not arrestin2 enhanced and prolonged H1 receptor-stimulated Ca2+ responses, whilst depletion of either arrestin increased oxytocin receptor responses. Arrestin3 depletion decreased H1 receptor desensitization, whilst removal of either arrestin isoform was equally effective in preventing oxytocin receptor desensitization. Following arrestin3 depletion oxytocin-induced phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase1/2 signals were diminished and histamine-stimulated signals virtually absent, whereas depletion of arrestin2 augmented extracellular signal-regulated kinase1/2 responses to each agonist. Conversely, depletion of arrestin3 enhanced p38 signals to each agonist, whilst arrestin2 suppression increased oxytocin-, but not histamine-induced p38 MAPK responses.
Arrestin proteins are key regulators of H1 and oxytocin receptor desensitization, and play integral roles mediating uterotonin-stimulated MAPK-signalling. These data provide insights into the in situ regulation of these receptor subtypes and may inform pathophysiological functioning in preterm labour.
PMCID: PMC3057297  PMID: 21175586
oxytocin receptor; histamine H1 receptor; arrestin; desensitization; MAPK; myometrium; contractile signalling
20.  Involvement of PKCα and G-protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 in agonist-selective desensitization of µ-opioid receptors in mature brain neurons 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2009;158(1):157-164.
Background and purpose:
The ability of an agonist to induce desensitization of the µ-opioid receptor (MOR) depends upon the agonist used. Furthermore, previous data suggest that the intracellular mechanisms underlying desensitization may be agonist-specific. We investigated the mechanisms underlying MOR desensitization, in adult mammalian neurons, caused by morphine (a partial agonist in this system) and DAMGO (a high-efficacy agonist).
Experimental approach:
MOR function was measured in locus coeruleus neurons, by using whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology, in rat and mouse brain slices (both wild-type and protein kinase C (PKC)α knockout mice). Specific isoforms of PKC were inhibited by using inhibitors of the receptors for activated C-kinase (RACK), and in vivo viral-mediated gene-transfer was used to transfect neurons with dominant negative mutants (DNMs) of specific G-protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs).
Key results:
Morphine-induced desensitization was attenuated by using RACK inhibitors that inhibit PKCα, but not by other isoform-specific inhibitors. Further, the PKC component of morphine-induced desensitization was absent in locus coeruleus neurons from PKCα knockout mice. The PKC-enhanced morphine-induced desensitization was not affected by over-expression of a GRK2 dominant negative mutant (GRK2 DNM). In contrast, DAMGO-induced MOR desensitization was independent of PKC activity but was reduced by over-expression of the GRK2 DNM but not by that of a GRK6 DNM.
Conclusions and implications:
In mature mammalian neurons, different MOR agonists can induce MOR desensitization by different mechanisms, morphine by a PKCα-mediated, heterologous mechanism and DAMGO by a GRK-mediated, homologous mechanism. These data represent functional selectivity at the level of receptor desensitization.
PMCID: PMC2795264  PMID: 19309357
morphine; PKC; opioid; opiate; desensitization; tolerance; G-protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK)
21.  Bitter tasting compounds dilate airways by inhibiting airway smooth muscle calcium oscillations and calcium sensitivity 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2014;171(3):646-662.
Background and Purpose
While selective, bitter tasting, TAS2R agonists can relax agonist-contracted airway smooth muscle (ASM), their mechanism of action is unclear. However, ASM contraction is regulated by Ca2+ signalling and Ca2+ sensitivity. We have therefore investigated how the TAS2R10 agonists chloroquine, quinine and denotonium regulate contractile agonist-induced Ca2+ signalling and sensitivity.
Experimental Approach
Airways in mouse lung slices were contracted with either methacholine (MCh) or 5HT and bronchodilation assessed using phase-contrast microscopy. Ca2+ signalling was measured with 2-photon fluorescence microscopy of ASM cells loaded with Oregon Green, a Ca2+-sensitive indicator (with or without caged-IP3). Effects on Ca2+ sensitivity were assessed on lung slices treated with caffeine and ryanodine to permeabilize ASM cells to Ca2+.
Key Results
The TAS2R10 agonists dilated airways constricted by either MCh or 5HT, accompanied by inhibition of agonist-induced Ca2+ oscillations. However, in non-contracted airways, TAS2R10 agonists, at concentrations that maximally dilated constricted airways, did not evoke Ca2+ signals in ASM cells. Ca2+ increases mediated by the photolysis of caged-IP3 were also attenuated by chloroquine, quinine and denotonium. In Ca2+-permeabilized ASM cells, the TAS2R10 agonists dilated MCh- and 5HT-constricted airways.
Conclusions and Implications
TAS2R10 agonists reversed bronchoconstriction by inhibiting agonist-induced Ca2+ oscillations while simultaneously reducing the Ca2+ sensitivity of ASM cells. Reduction of Ca2+ oscillations may be due to inhibition of Ca2+ release through IP3 receptors. Further characterization of bronchodilatory TAS2R agonists may lead to the development of novel therapies for the treatment of bronchoconstrictive conditions.
PMCID: PMC3969078  PMID: 24117140
mouse lung slice; 2-photon microscopy; β2-adrenergic receptor agonists; TAS2R; asthma
22.  Different profiles of desensitization dynamics in guinea-pig jejunal longitudinal smooth muscle after stimulation with histamine and methacholine. 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1990;101(4):881-888.
1. In the present study we investigated desensitization phenomena of guinea-pig jejunal longitudinal smooth muscle responses after stimulation with 100 microM histamine or methacholine, using a superfusion method. 2. Histamine H1-receptor-mediated contractions appear to be rapidly reduced after application of 100 microM histamine. Muscarinic responses were not affected following desensitization with 100 microM histamine, indicating a homologous desensitization. 3. Initial contractions to 0.3 microM histamine were reduced by 90%, recovered quickly, but did not reach control levels within 1 h. Desensitization of histamine responses could be separated into two phases; a rapid, but transient, desensitization and a more sustained desensitization. As a consequence of this sustained effect the pD2 for histamine shifted from 6.7 +/- 0.1 (control) to 6.1 +/- 0.1 (desensitized). 4. Desensitization with 100 microM methacholine caused a heterologous desensitization, reflected by the development of a refractory period, in which neither histamine nor methacholine was able to elicit a contraction. After a few minutes responses to both agents recovered to control levels. 5. During the refractory period after methacholine desensitization, muscle strips were still responsive to 40 mM KCl but did not contract in response to 10 mM caffeine, suggesting that the heterologous desensitization is caused by a modification of an intracellular Ca2(+)-store, which is used by both histamine and methacholine. 6. The recovery of the responses after methacholine desensitization was not dependent on extracellular Ca2+, suggesting that the recovery is not dependent on refilling of the intracellular Ca2+ store with extracellular Ca2+. 7. The protein kinase C activator, phorbol-12,13-dibutyrate, concentration-dependently inhibited histamine- and methacholine-induced contractions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
PMCID: PMC1917861  PMID: 2085711
23.  Salmeterol Stimulation Dissociates β2-Adrenergic Receptor Phosphorylation and Internalization 
Salmeterol is a long-acting β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) agonist commonly used in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It differs from other β-agonists in that it has a very low intrinisic efficacy, especially when compared with the other available long-acting β-agonist, formoterol. Receptor desensitization and down-regulation has been described with the chronic use of β-agonists. This effect may not be the same with all β-agonists and may be related to their stabilization of altered receptor states. The extreme hydrophobicity and high-affinity quasi-irreversible binding of salmeterol have rendered studies examining the mechanisms by which it mediates receptor desensitization, down-regulation, and internalization difficult. We determined the capacity of salmeterol to induce β2AR endocytosis, G protein–coupled receptor kinase (GRK)-site phosphorylation, degradation, and β-arrestin2 translocation in HEK293 cells as compared with other agonists of varying intrinsic efficacies. Despite stimulating GRK-mediated phosphorylation of Ser355,356 after 30 min and 18 h to an extent similar to that observed with agonists of high intrinsic efficacy, such as epinephrine and formoterol, salmeterol did not induce significant β2AR internalization or degradation and was incapable of stimulating the translocation of enhanced green fluorescent protein-β–arrestin2 chimera (EGFP-β–arrestin2) to the cell surface. Salmeterol-induced receptor endocytosis was rescued, at least in part, by the overexpression of EGFP-β–arrestin2. Our data indicate that salmeterol binding induces an active receptor state that is unable to recruit β-arrestin or undergo significant endocytosis or degradation despite stimulating considerable GRK-site phosphorylation. Defects in these components of salmeterol-induced receptor desensitization may be important determinants of its sustained bronchodilation with chronic use.
PMCID: PMC1899312  PMID: 16980556
β2-adrenergic receptor; salmeterol; phosphorylation; internalization; desensitization
24.  A Polymorphism of GRK5 Alters Agonist-Promoted Desensitization of β2-Adrenergic Receptors 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2008;18(8):729-732.
β-agonist treatment of asthma displays substantial interindividual variation, which has prompted polymorphism discovery and characterization of β2-adrenergic (β2AR) signaling genes. β2AR function undergoes desensitization during persistent agonist exposure due to receptor phosphorylation by G-protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs). GRK5 was found to be highly expressed in airway smooth muscle, the tissue target for β-agonists. The coding region is polymorphic at codon 41, where Gln can be substituted by Leu (minor allele), but almost exclusively in those of African descent. In transfected cells, GRK5-Leu41 evoked a greater degree of agonist-promoted desensitization of adenylyl cyclase compared to GRK5-Gln41. Consistent with this functional effect, agonist-promoted β2AR phosphorylation was greater in cells expressing GRK5-Leu41, as was the rate of agonist-promoted receptor internalization. In studies with mutated β2AR lacking PKA-phosphorylation sites, this phenotype was confirmed as being GRK-specific. So, GRK5-Leu41 represents a gain-of-function polymorphism that evokes enhanced loss-of-function of β2AR during persistent agonist exposure, and thus may contribute to β-agonist variability in asthma treatment of African-Americans.
PMCID: PMC2699179  PMID: 18622265
Polymorphism; tachyphylaxis; β-agonist; kinases; desensitization; asthma
25.  Rapid desensitization of adrenaline- and neuropeptide Y-stimulated Ca2+ mobilization in HEL-cells. 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1994;112(2):499-504.
1. Desensitization of Gs-coupled receptors, the beta 2-adrenoceptor for example, involves rapid and slower components but little is known regarding the existence of rapid desensitization of Gi-coupled receptors and its possible mechanisms. In HEL-cells stimulation of alpha 2A-adrenoceptors by adrenaline or Y1-like neuropeptide Y receptors by neuropeptide Y, transiently mobilizes Ca2+ from intracellular stores via a Gi-protein. We have used this model to study the existence and possible mechanisms of rapid desensitization of a Gi-mediated cellular response. 2. Following stimulation by adrenaline or neuropeptide Y Ca2+ levels returned towards baseline a few minutes after agonist addition and were refractory to a second agonist exposure demonstrating rapid desensitization. Cross-desensitization experiments with neuropeptide Y, adrenaline and moxonidine demonstrated the presence of homologous (both receptors) and heterologous desensitization (neuropeptide Y receptors only), and that the alpha 2A-adrenoceptor desensitization was not specific for phenylethylamine (adrenaline) or imidazoline agonists (moxonidine). 3. The protein kinase C activator, phorbol ester, rapidly desensitized the hormonal Ca2+ responses and inhibitors of protein kinase C enhanced the hormonal responses inconsistently. The tyrosine kinase inhibitor, herbimycin, enhanced Ca2+ mobilization by adrenaline and neuropeptide Y, whereas the protein phosphatase inhibitor, okdadaic acid, did not affect Ca2+ mobilization or its desensitization. 4. In the absence of extracellular Ca2+ the endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase inhibitor, thapsigargin, reduced hormone-stimulated Ca2+ elevations, demonstrating that mobilization occurs from a thapsigargin-sensitive pool in the endoplasmic reticulum.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
PMCID: PMC1910331  PMID: 8075868

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