Photolabelling the urotensin II receptor reveals distinct agonist- and partial-agonist-binding sites

Brian J Holleran, Marie-Eve Beaulieu, Christophe D Proulx, Pierre Lavigne, Emanuel Escher, Richard Leduc
Biochemical Journal 2007 February 15, 402 (1): 51-61
The mechanism by which GPCRs (G-protein-coupled receptors) undergo activation is believed to involve conformational changes following agonist binding. We have used photoaffinity labelling to identify domains within GPCRs that make contact with various photoreactive ligands in order to better understand the activation mechanism. Here, a series of four agonist {[Bpa1]U-II (Bpa is p-benzoyl-L-phenylalanine), [Bpa2]U-II, [Bpa3]U-II and [Bpa4]U-II} and three partial agonist {[Bpa1Pen5D-Trp7Orn8]U-II (Pen is penicillamine), [Bpa2Pen5D-Trp7Orn8]U-II and [Pen5Bpa6D-Trp7Orn8]U-II} photoreactive urotensin II (U-II) analogues were used to identify ligand-binding sites on the UT receptor (U-II receptor). All peptides bound the UT receptor expressed in COS-7 cells with high affinity (Kd of 0.3-17.7 nM). Proteolytic mapping and mutational analysis led to the identification of Met288 of the third extracellular loop of the UT receptor as a binding site for all four agonist peptides. Both partial agonists containing the photoreactive group in positions 1 and 2 also cross-linked to Met288. We found that photolabelling with the partial agonist containing the photoreactive group in position 6 led to the detection of transmembrane domain 5 as a binding site for that ligand. Interestingly, this differs from Met184/Met185 of the fourth transmembrane domain that had been identified previously as a contact site for the full agonist [Bpa6]U-II. These results enable us to better map the binding pocket of the UT receptor. Moreover, the data also suggest that, although structurally related agonists or partial agonists may dock in the same general binding pocket, conformational changes induced by various states of activation may result in slight differences in spatial proximity within the cyclic portion of U-II analogues.

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