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Public Library of Science, PLoS ONE, 10(9), p. e109312

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109312



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A Dynamic View of Molecular Switch Behavior at Serotonin Receptors: Implications for Functional Selectivity

Journal article published in 2014 by Maria Martí-Solano, Ferran Sanz, Manuel Pastor, Jana Selent ORCID
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Functional selectivity is a property of G protein-coupled receptors that allows them to preferentially couple to particular signaling partners upon binding of biased agonists. Publication of the X-ray crystal structure of serotonergic 5-HT1B and 5-HT2B receptors in complex with ergotamine, a drug capable of activating G protein coupling and β-arrestin signaling at the 5-HT1B receptor but clearly favoring β-arrestin over G protein coupling at the 5-HT2B subtype, has recently provided structural insight into this phenomenon. In particular, these structures highlight the importance of specific residues, also called micro-switches, for differential receptor activation. In our work, we apply classical molecular dynamics simulations and enhanced sampling approaches to analyze the behavior of these micro-switches and their impact on the stabilization of particular receptor conformational states. Our analysis shows that differences in the conformational freedom of helix 6 between both receptors could explain their different G protein-coupling capacity. In particular, as compared to the 5-HT1B receptor, helix 6 movement in the 5-HT2B receptor can be constrained by two different mechanisms. On the one hand, an anchoring effect of ergotamine, which shows an increased capacity to interact with the extracellular part of helices 5 and 6 and stabilize them, hinders activation of a hydrophobic connector region at the center of the receptor. On the other hand, this connector region in an inactive conformation is further stabilized by unconserved contacts extending to the intracellular part of the 5-HT2B receptor, which hamper opening of the G protein binding site. This work highlights the importance of considering receptor capacity to adopt different conformational states from a dynamic perspective in order to underpin the structural basis of functional selectivity.