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Activation microswitches in GPCRs function as rheostats in cell membrane

By Ning Ma, Sangbae Lee, Nagarajan Vaidehi

Posted 23 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.22.216317

Although multiple components of the cell membrane modulate the stability and activation of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), the activation mechanism comes from detergent studies, since it is challenging to study activation in multi-component lipid bilayer. Using the multi-scale molecular dynamics simulations, our comparative study between cell membrane and detergents shows that: the changes in inter-residue distances, known as activation microswitches, show an ensemble of states in the extent of activation in cell membrane. We forward a rheostat model of GPCR activation rather than a binary switch model. Phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate (PIP2) and calcium ions, through a tug of war, maintain a balance between the GPCR stability and activity in cell membrane. Due to the lack of receptor stiffening effects by PIP2, detergents promote more transitions among conformational states than cell membrane. These findings connect the chemistry of cell membrane lipids to receptor activity useful to design detergents mimicking cell membrane.

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