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Exploring the Activation Process of the β2AR‑Gs Complex

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posted on 13.07.2021, 16:16 by Chen Bai, Junlin Wang, Dibyendu Mondal, Yang Du, Richard D. Ye, Arieh Warshel
G-Protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) belong to an important family of integral membrane receptor proteins that are essential for a variety of transmembrane signaling process, such as vision, olfaction, and hormone responses. They are also involved in many human diseases (Alzheimer’s, heart diseases, etc.) and are therefore common drug targets. Thus, understanding the details of the GPCR activation process is a task of major importance. Various types of crystal structures of GPCRs have been solved either at stable end-point states or at possible intermediate states. However, the detailed mechanism of the activation process is still poorly understood. For example, it is not completely clear when the nucleotide release from the G protein occurs and how the key residues on α5 contribute to the coupling process and further affect the binding specificity. In this work we show by free energy analysis that the guanosine diphosphate (GDP) molecule could be released from the Gs protein when the binding cavity is half open. This occurs during the transition to the Gs open state, which is the rate-determining step in the system conformational change. We also account for the experimentally observed slow-down effects by the change of the reaction barriers after mutations. Furthermore, we identify potential key residues on α5 and validated their significance by site-directed mutagenesis, which illustrates that computational works have predictive value even for complex biophysical systems. The methodology of the current work may be applied to other biophysical systems of interest.