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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Mechanism of glucocorticoid protection of airway smooth muscle from proasthmatic effects of long-acting β2-adrenoceptor agonist exposure 
Chronic use of long-acting β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) agonists (LABAs), resulting in β2AR desensitization, has been associated with increased asthma morbidity. When LABAs are used in combination with inhaled glucocorticoids (GCs), however, asthma control is improved, raising the question: Do GCs inhibit the proasthmatic mechanism that mediates altered contractility in LABA-exposed airway smooth muscle (ASM)?
This study aimed to identify the potential protective role and mechanism of action of GCs in mitigating the effects of prolonged LABA exposure on ASM constrictor and relaxation responsiveness.
Cultured human ASM (HASM) cells and isolated rabbit ASM tissues were examined for induced changes in agonist-mediated cAMP accumulation, constrictor and relaxation responsiveness, and expression of specific GC-regulated molecules following 24h exposure to the LABA, salmeterol, in the absence and presence of dexamethasone (DEX).
Salmeterol-exposed ASM exhibited impaired cAMP and relaxation responses to isoproterenol and increased acetylcholine-induced contractility. These pro-asthmatic effects of prolonged LABA exposure were attributed to upregulated phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) activity, and ablated by pretreatment with DEX. Further studies demonstrated that: 1) DEX suppressed activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), ERK1/2, which upregulates PDE4 expression in salmeterol-exposed ASM; and 2) the inhibitory actions of DEX on salmeterol-induced ERK1/2 activation and resultant PDE4-mediated changes in ASM responsiveness were prevented by gene silencing or pharmacological inhibition of DEX-induced expression of MAPK phosphatase-1 (MKP-1), an endogenous deactivator of ERK1/2 signaling.
GCs prevent the adverse proasthmatic effects of prolonged LABA exposure on airway responsiveness due to GC-induced upregulation of MKP-1, which inhibits proasthmatic ERK1/2 signaling in the LABA-exposed ASM.
PMCID: PMC2866838  PMID: 20392484
asthma; salmeterol; homologous β2-adrenergic receptor desensitization; airway smooth muscle; phosphodiesterase; ERK1/2 phosphorylation; siRNA; MAPK phosphatase-1
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Characterising the Mechanism of Airway Smooth Muscle β2 Adrenoceptor Desensitization by Rhinovirus Infected Bronchial Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56058.
Rhinovirus (RV) infections account for approximately two thirds of all virus-induced asthma exacerbations and often result in an impaired response to β2 agonist therapy. Using an in vitro model of RV infection, we investigated the mechanisms underlying RV-induced β2 adrenoceptor desensitization in primary human airway smooth muscle cells (ASMC). RV infection of primary human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC) for 24 hours produced conditioned medium that caused β2 adrenoceptor desensitization on ASMCs without an effect on ASMCs viability. Less than 3 kDa size fractionation together with trypsin digestion of RV-induced conditioned medium did not prevent β2 adrenoceptor desensitization, suggesting it could potentially be mediated by a small peptide or lipid. RV infection of BECs, ASMCs and fibroblasts produced prostaglandins, of which PGE2, PGF2α and PGI2 had the ability to cause β2 adrenoceptor desensitization on ASMCs. RV-induced conditioned medium from HBECs depleted of PGE2 did not prevent ASMC β2 adrenoceptor desensitization; however this medium induced PGE2 from ASMCs, suggesting that autocrine prostaglandin production may be responsible. Using inhibitors of cyclooxygenase and prostaglandin receptor antagonists, we found that β2 adrenoceptor desensitization was mediated through ASMC derived COX-2 induced prostaglandins. Since ASMC prostaglandin production is unlikely to be caused by RV-induced epithelial derived proteins or lipids we next investigated activation of toll-like receptors (TLR) by viral RNA. The combination of TLR agonists poly I:C and imiquimod induced PGE2 and β2 adrenoceptor desensitization on ASMC as did the RNA extracted from RV-induced conditioned medium. Viral RNA but not epithelial RNA caused β2 adrenoceptor desensitization confirming that viral RNA and not endogenous human RNA was responsible. It was deduced that the mechanism by which β2 adrenoceptor desensitization occurs was by pattern recognition receptor activation of COX-2 induced prostaglandins.
PMCID: PMC3574065  PMID: 23457497
14.  The dopamine D1 receptor is expressed and facilitates relaxation in airway smooth muscle 
Respiratory Research  2013;14(1):89.
Dopamine signaling is mediated by Gs protein-coupled “D1-like” receptors (D1 and D5) and Gi-coupled “D2-like” receptors (D2-4). In asthmatic patients, inhaled dopamine induces bronchodilation. Although the Gi-coupled dopamine D2 receptor is expressed and sensitizes adenylyl cyclase activity in airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells, the Gs-coupled dopamine D1-like receptor subtypes have never been identified on these cells. Activation of Gs-coupled receptors stimulates cyclic AMP (cAMP) production through the stimulation of adenylyl cyclase, which promotes ASM relaxation. We questioned whether the dopamine D1-like receptor is expressed on ASM, and modulates its function through Gs-coupling.
The mRNA and protein expression of dopamine D1-like receptor subtypes in both native human and guinea pig ASM tissue and cultured human ASM (HASM) cells was measured. To characterize the stimulation of cAMP through the dopamine D1 receptor, HASM cells were treated with dopamine or the dopamine D1-like receptor agonists (A68930 or SKF38393) before cAMP measurements. To evaluate whether the activation of dopamine D1 receptor induces ASM relaxation, guinea pig tracheal rings suspended under isometric tension in organ baths were treated with cumulatively increasing concentrations of dopamine or A68930, following an acetylcholine-induced contraction with or without the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) inhibitor Rp-cAMPS, the large-conductance calcium-activated potassium (BKCa) channel blocker iberiotoxin, or the exchange proteins directly activated by cAMP (Epac) antagonist NSC45576.
Messenger RNA encoding the dopamine D1 and D5 receptors were detected in native human ASM tissue and cultured HASM cells. Immunoblots confirmed the protein expression of the dopamine D1 receptor in both native human and guinea pig ASM tissue and cultured HASM cells. The dopamine D1 receptor was also immunohistochemically localized to both human and guinea pig ASM. The dopamine D1-like receptor agonists stimulated cAMP production in HASM cells, which was reversed by the selective dopamine D1-like receptor antagonists SCH23390 or SCH39166. A68930 relaxed acetylcholine-contracted guinea pig tracheal rings, which was attenuated by Rp-cAMPS but not by iberiotoxin or NSC45576.
These results demonstrate that the dopamine D1 receptors are expressed on ASM and regulate smooth muscle force via cAMP activation of PKA, and offer a novel target for therapeutic relaxation of ASM.
PMCID: PMC3847358  PMID: 24004608
Dopamine; RT-PCR; Immunoblot; Gs-coupled receptor; Cyclic AMP; PKA; Epac
15.  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
16.  Impaired desensitization of a human polymorphic α2B-adrenergic receptor variant enhances its sympatho-inhibitory activity in chromaffin cells 
α2-adrenergic receptors (ARs) mediate many cellular actions of epinephrine and norepinephrine and inhibit their secretion from adrenal chromaffin cells. Like many other G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), they undergo agonist-dependent phopshorylation and desensitization by GPCR Kinases (GRKs), a phenomenon recently shown to play a major role in the sympathetic overdrive that accompanies and aggravates chronic heart failure. A deletion polymorphism in the human α2B-AR gene (Glu301-303) causes impaired agonist-promoted receptor phosphorylation and desensitization in heterologous cell lines. Given the importance of α2-ARs in regulation of catecholamine secretion from chromaffin cells, we sought to investigate, in the present study, the desensitization properties and the sympatho-inhibitory activity of this variant in a chromaffin cell line. For this purpose, we expressed this variant and its wild type counterpart in the well-established chromaffin cell line PC12, and performed receptor phosphorylation and desensitization studies, as well as in vitro catecholamine secretion assays.
Both the agonist-induced phosphorylation and agonist-dependent desensitization of the human Glu301-303 deletion polymorphic α2B-AR are significantly impaired in PC12 cells, resulting in enhanced signaling to inhibition of cholinergic-induced catecholamine secretion in vitro.
This α2B-AR gene polymorphism (Glu301-303 deletion) might confer better protection against conditions characterized and aggravated by sympathetic/catecholaminergic overstimulation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3041786  PMID: 21299895
17.  Repeated Bouts of Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Exercise Reduce Airway Reactivity in a Murine Asthma Model 
We have reported that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise training attenuates airway inflammation in mice sensitized/challenged with ovalbumin (OVA). The current study determined the effects of repeated bouts of aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity on airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) in these mice. Mice were sensitized/challenged with OVA or saline and exercised at a moderate intensity 3 times/week for 4 weeks. At protocol completion, mice were analyzed for changes in AHR via mechanical ventilation. Results show that exercise decreased total lung resistance 60% in OVA-treated mice as compared with controls; exercise also decreased airway smooth muscle (ASM) thickness. In contrast, exercise increased circulating epinephrine levels 3-fold in saline- and OVA-treated mice. Because epinephrine binds β2-adrenergic receptors (AR), which facilitate bronchodilatation, the role of β2-AR in exercise-mediated improvements in AHR was examined. Application of the β2-AR antagonist butoxamine HCl blocked the effects of exercise on lung resistance in OVA-treated mice. In parallel, ASM cells were examined for changes in the protein expression of β2-AR and G-protein receptor kinase-2 (GRK-2); GRK-2 promotes β2-AR desensitization. Exercise had no effect on β2-AR expression in ASM cells of OVA-treated mice; however, exercise decreased GRK-2 expression by 50% as compared with controls. Exercise also decreased prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production 5-fold, but had no effect on E prostanoid-1 (EP1) receptor expression within the lungs of OVA-treated mice; both PGE2 and the EP1 receptor have been implicated in β2-AR desensitization. Together, these data indicate that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise training attenuates AHR via a mechanism that involves β2-AR.
PMCID: PMC2822985  PMID: 19423772
asthma; airway hyperresponsiveness; exercise; β2-adrenergic receptor
18.  Caveolae-dependent internalization and homologous desensitization of VIP/PACAP receptor, VPAC2, in gastrointestinal smooth muscle 
Peptides  2013;43:137-145.
The main membrane proteins of caveolae (caveolin-1, -2 and -3) oligomerize within lipid rich domains to form regular invaginations of smooth muscle plasma membrane and participate in receptor internalization and desensitization independent of clathrin-coated vesicle endocytosis. We have previously shown that Gs-coupled VIP/PACAP receptors, VPAC2, predominantly expressed in smooth muscle cells of the gut, are exclusively phosphorylated by GRK2 leading to receptor internalization and desensitization. Herein, we characterized the role of caveolin-1 in VPAC2 receptor internalization and desensitization in gastric smooth muscle using three approaches: (i) methyl β-cyclodextrin (MβCD) to deplete cholesterol and disrupt caveolae in dispersed muscle cells, (ii) caveolin-1 siRNA to suppress caveolin-1 expression in cultured muscle cells, and (iii) caveolin-1 knockout mice (caveolin-1−/−). Pretreatment of gastric muscle cells with VIP stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of caveolin-1, and induced VPAC2 receptor internalization (measured as decrease in 125I-VIP binding after pretreatment) and desensitization (measured as decrease in VIP-induced cAMP formation after pretreatment). Caveolin-1 phosphorylation, and VPAC2 receptor internalization and desensitization were blocked by disruption of caveolae with MβCD, suppression of caveolin-1 with caveolin-1 siRNA or inhibition of Src kinase activity by PP2. Pretreatment with VIP significantly inhibited adenylyl cyclase activity and muscle relaxation in response to subsequent addition of VIP in freshly dispersed muscle cells and in muscle strips isolated from wild type and caveolin-1−/−mice; however, the inhibition was significantly attenuated in caveolin-1−/− mice. These results suggest that caveolin-1 plays an important role in VPAC2 receptor internalization and desensitization.
PMCID: PMC4026926  PMID: 23499767
Caveolin-1; Endocytosis; G protein coupled receptor; GRK2
19.  The Desensitization Gating of the MthK K+ Channel Is Governed by Its Cytoplasmic Amino Terminus 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(10):e223.
The RCK-containing MthK channel undergoes two inactivation processes: activation-coupled desensitization and acid-induced inactivation. The acid inactivation is mediated by the C-terminal RCK domain assembly. Here, we report that the desensitization gating is governed by a desensitization domain (DD) of the cytoplasmic N-terminal 17 residues. Deletion of DD completely removes the desensitization, and the process can be fully restored by a synthetic DD peptide added in trans. Mutagenesis analyses reveal a sequence-specific determinant for desensitization within the initial hydrophobic segment of DD. Proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy analyses with synthetic peptides and isolated RCK show interactions between the two terminal domains. Additionally, we show that deletion of DD does not affect the acid-induced inactivation, indicating that the two inactivation processes are mutually independent. Our results demonstrate that the short N-terminal DD of MthK functions as a complete moveable module responsible for the desensitization. Its interaction with the C-terminal RCK domain may play a role in the gating process.
Author Summary
Nerve cells use ion channels, pores in the cell membrane, to send messages in the form of electrical signals between cells. Most ion channels have evolved several elaborate mechanisms that allow the channels to close quickly after opening to prevent wasteful leakage of the electrochemical potential—the currency of neuron communication—across the cell membrane. The process is known as inactivation or desensitization. Previous study on the model RCK-containing MthK K+ channel in the enlarged Escherichia coli membrane has shown that this archaeon channel also undergoes desensitization. Using the same method, we demonstrate that the desensitization is indeed an intrinsic molecular property of the MthK protein. We show that a specific region of MthK, the short N terminus of the protein, functions as a structurally independent domain and is entirely responsible for the desensitization gating process. Moreover, we show that this N-terminal domain interacts with the C-terminal RCK domain as part of the desensitization mechanism. This unique desensitization mechanism, by interaction between the two cytoplasmic termini, is distinct from those traditional mechanisms known as N- and C-type inactivation found in many voltage-gated Na+ and K+ channels or as the desensitization observed in the glutamate receptors. Since the KTN/RCK domain is found in a large number of prokaryotic K+ channels and transporters, this unique mechanism may be common to these transport systems for regulating the K+ flux through the cell membrane.
The N terminus of the ion channel MthK functions as a structurally independent domain and is entirely responsible for the desensitization gating process required for neuron-to-neuron communication.
PMCID: PMC2573919  PMID: 18959476
20.  Bitter taste receptors on airway smooth muscle bronchodilate by a localized calcium flux and reverse obstruction 
Nature medicine  2010;16(11):1299-1304.
Bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) of the tongue likely evolved to evoke signals for avoiding ingestion of plant toxins. We found expression of TAS2Rs on human airway smooth muscle (ASM) and considered these to be avoidance receptors for inhalants, leading to ASM contraction and bronchospasm. TAS2R agonists such as saccharin, chloroquine and denatonium evoked increased ASM [Ca2+]i in a Gβγ, PLCβ and IP3-receptor dependent manner which would be expected (like acetylcholine) to evoke contraction. Paradoxically, bitter tastants caused relaxation of isolated ASM, and dilation of airways that was 3-fold greater than β-agonists. Relaxation by TAS2Rs is from a localized [Ca2+]i response at the cell membrane which opens BKCa channels leading to ASM membrane hyperpolarization. Inhaled bitter tastants decreased airway obstruction in an asthma mouse model. Given the need for efficacious bronchodilators for treating obstructive lung diseases, this pathway can be exploited for therapy with the thousands of known synthetic and naturally occurring bitter tastants.
PMCID: PMC3066567  PMID: 20972434
21.  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
22.  μ-Opioid receptor desensitization: homologous or heterologous? 
The European Journal of Neuroscience  2012;36(12):3636-3642.
There is considerable controversy over whether μ-opioid receptor (MOPr) desensitization is homologous or heterologous and over the mechanisms underlying such desensitization. In different cell types MOPr desensitization has been reported to involve receptor phosphorylation by various kinases, including G-protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), second messenger and other kinases as well as perturbation of the MOPr effector pathway by GRK sequestration of G protein βγ subunits or ion channel modulation. Here we report that in brainstem locus coeruleus (LC) neurons prepared from relatively mature rats (5–8 weeks old) rapid MOPr desensitization induced by the high-efficacy opioid peptides methionine enkephalin and DAMGO was homologous and not heterologous to α2-adrenoceptors and somatostatin SST2 receptors. Given that these receptors all couple through G proteins to the same set of G-protein inwardly rectifying (GIRK) channels it is unlikely therefore that in mature neurons MOPr desensitization involves G protein βγ subunit sequestration or ion channel modulation. In contrast, in slices from immature animals (less than postnatal day 20), MOPr desensitization was observed to be heterologous and could be downstream of the receptor. Heterologous MOPr desensitization was not dependent on protein kinase C or c-Jun N-terminal kinase activity, but the change from heterologous to homologous desensitization with age was correlated with a decrease in the expression levels of GRK2 in the LC and other brain regions. The observation that the mechanisms underlying MOPr desensitization change with neuronal development is important when extrapolating to the mature brain results obtained from experiments on expression systems, cell lines and immature neuronal preparations.
PMCID: PMC3527680  PMID: 23002724
desensitization; GPCR; opioid receptor; opioids; rat
23.  µ-Opioid receptor desensitization: homologous or heterologous? 
The European journal of neuroscience  2012;36(12):3636-3642.
There is considerable controversy over whether µ-opioid receptor (MOPr) desensitization is homologous or heterologous and over the mechanisms underlying such desensitization. In different cell types MOPr desensitization has been reported to involve receptor phosphorylation by various kinases, including G-protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), second messenger and other kinases as well as perturbation of the MOPr effector pathway by GRK sequestration of G protein βγ̣ subunits or ion channel modulation. Here we report that in brainstem locus coeruleus (LC) neurons prepared from relatively mature rats (5–8 weeks old) rapid MOPr desensitization induced by the high efficacy opioid peptides, methionine enkephalin and DAMGO was homologous and not heterologous to α2-adrenoceptors and somatostatin SST2 receptors. Given that these receptors all couple through G proteins to the same set of G-protein inwardly rectifying (GIRK) channels it is unlikely therefore that in mature neurons MOPr desensitization involves G protein βγ subunit sequestration or ion channel modulation. In contrast, in slices from immature animals (P<20 days), MOPr desensitization was observed to be heterologous and could be downstream of the receptor. Heterologous MOPr desensitization was not dependent on proten kinase C or c-Jun N-terminal kinase activity, but the change from heterologous to homologous desensitization with age was correlated with a decrease in the expression levels of GRK2 in the LC and other brain regions. The observation that the mechanisms underlying MOPr desensitization change with neuronal development is important when extrapolating to the mature brain results obtained from experiments on expression systems, cell lines and immature neuronal preparations.
PMCID: PMC3527680  PMID: 23002724
opioids; opioid receptor; desensitization; GPCR; rat
24.  Mutation of Putative GRK Phosphorylation Sites in the Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1R) Confers Resistance to Cannabinoid Tolerance and Hypersensitivity to Cannabinoids in Mice 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(15):5152-5163.
For many G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), including cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R), desensitization has been proposed as a principal mechanism driving initial tolerance to agonists. GPCR desensitization typically requires phosphorylation by a G-protein-coupled receptor kinase (GRK) and interaction of the phosphorylated receptor with an arrestin. In simple model systems, CB1R is desensitized by GRK phosphorylation at two serine residues (S426 and S430). However, the role of these serine residues in tolerance and dependence for cannabinoids in vivo was unclear. Therefore, we generated mice where S426 and S430 were mutated to nonphosphorylatable alanines (S426A/S430A). S426A/S430A mutant mice were more sensitive to acutely administered delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), have delayed tolerance to Δ9-THC, and showed increased dependence for Δ9-THC. S426A/S430A mutants also showed increased responses to elevated levels of endogenous cannabinoids. CB1R desensitization in the periaqueductal gray and spinal cord following 7 d of treatment with Δ9-THC was absent in S426A/S430A mutants. Δ9-THC-induced downregulation of CB1R in the spinal cord was also absent in S426A/S430A mutants. Cultured autaptic hippocampal neurons from S426A/S430A mice showed enhanced endocannabinoid-mediated depolarization-induced suppression of excitation (DSE) and reduced agonist-mediated desensitization of DSE. These results indicate that S426 and S430 play major roles in the acute response to, tolerance to, and dependence on cannabinoids. Additionally, S426A/S430A mice are a novel model for studying pathophysiological processes thought to involve excessive endocannabinoid signaling such as drug addiction and metabolic disease. These mice also validate the approach of mutating GRK phosphorylation sites involved in desensitization as a general means to confer exaggerated signaling to GPCRs in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3983798  PMID: 24719095
cannabinoid; CB1; desensitization; GPCR; THC; tolerance
25.  Cysteinyl-leukotrienes in the regulation of β2-adrenoceptor function: an in vitro model of asthma 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):103.
The response to β2-adrenoceptor agonists is reduced in asthmatic airways. This desensitization may be in part due to inflammatory mediators and may involve cysteinyl-leukotrienes (cysteinyl-LTs). Cysteinyl-LTs are pivotal inflammatory mediators that play important roles in the pathophysiology of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other inflammatory conditions. We tested the hypothesis that leukotriene D4 (LTD4) and allergen challenge cause β2-adrenoceptor desensitization through the activation of protein kinase C (PKC).
The isoproterenol-induced cAMP accumulation was evaluated in human airway smooth muscle cell cultures challenged with exogenous LTD4 or the PKC activator phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate with or without pretreatments with the PKC inhibitor GF109203X or the CysLT1R antagonist montelukast. The relaxant response to salbutamol was studied in passively sensitized human bronchial rings challenged with allergen in physiological salt solution (PSS) alone, or in the presence of either montelukast or GF109203X.
In cell cultures, both LTD4 and phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate caused significant reductions of maximal isoproterenol-induced cAMP accumulation, which were fully prevented by montelukast and GF109203X, respectively. More importantly, GF109203X also prevented the attenuating effect of LTD4 on isoproterenol-induced cAMP accumulation. In bronchial rings, both montelukast and GF109203X prevented the rightward displacement of the concentration-response curves to salbutamol induced by allergen challenge.
LTD4 induces β2-adrenoceptor desensitization in human airway smooth muscle cells, which is mediated through the activation of PKC. Allergen exposure of sensitized human bronchi may also cause a β2-adrenoceptor desensitization through the involvement of the CysLT1R-PKC pathway.
PMCID: PMC1557489  PMID: 16875498

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