Biased agonists of the chemokine receptor CXCR3 differentially signal through Gαi:β-arrestin complexes.


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest family of cell surface receptors and signal through the proximal effectors, G proteins and β-arrestins, to influence nearly every biological process. The G protein and β-arrestin signaling pathways have largely been considered separable; however, direct interactions between Gα proteins and β-arrestins have been described that appear to be part of a distinct GPCR signaling pathway. Within these complexes, Gαi/o, but not other Gα protein subtypes, directly interacts with β-arrestin, regardless of the canonical Gα protein that is coupled to the GPCR. Here, we report that the endogenous biased chemokine agonists of CXCR3 (CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11), together with two small-molecule biased agonists, differentially formed Gαi:β-arrestin complexes. Formation of the Gαi:β-arrestin complexes did not correlate well with either G protein activation or β-arrestin recruitment. β-arrestin biosensors demonstrated that ligands that promoted Gαi:β-arrestin complex formation generated similar β-arrestin conformations. We also found that Gαi:β-arrestin complexes did not couple to the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK, as is observed with other receptors such as the V2 vasopressin receptor, but did couple with the clathrin adaptor protein AP-2, which suggests context-dependent signaling by these complexes. These findings reinforce the notion that Gαi:β-arrestin complex formation is a distinct GPCR signaling pathway and enhance our understanding of the spectrum of biased agonism.






Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Zheng, Kevin, Jeffrey S Smith, Dylan S Eiger, Anmol Warman, Issac Choi, Christopher C Honeycutt, Noelia Boldizsar, Jaimee N Gundry, et al. (2022). Biased agonists of the chemokine receptor CXCR3 differentially signal through Gαi:β-arrestin complexes. Science signaling, 15(726). p. eabg5203. 10.1126/scisignal.abg5203 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Sudarshan Rajagopal

Associate Professor of Medicine

I am a physician-scientist with a research focus on G protein-coupled receptor signaling in inflammation and vascular disease and a clinical focus on pulmonary vascular disease, as I serve as Co-Director of the Duke Pulmonary Vascular Disease Center. My research spans the spectrum from clinical research in pulmonary vascular disease, to translational research in cardiovascular disease, to the basic science of receptor signaling. 

Our basic science resesarch focuses on understanding and untapping the signaling potential of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) to regulate inflammation in vascular disease. GPCRs are the most common transmembrane receptors in the human genome (over 800 members) and are some of the most successful targets for drug therapies. While it has been known for some time that these receptors signal through multiple downstream effectors (such as heterotrimeric G proteins and multifunctional beta arrestin adapter proteins), over the past decade it has been better appreciated that these receptors are capable of signaling with different efficacies to these effectors, a phenomenon referred to as “biased agonism”. Ligands can be biased, by activating different pathways from one another, and receptors can be biased, by signaling to a limited number of pathways that are normally available to them. Moreover, this phenomenon also appears to be common to other transmembrane and nuclear receptors. While a growing number of biased agonists acting at multiple receptors have been identified, there is still little known regarding the mechanisms underlying biased signaling and its physiologic impact.

Much of our research focuses on the chemokine system, which consists of approximately twenty receptors and fifty ligands that display considerable promiscuity with each other in the regulation of immune cell function in inflammatory diseases. Research from our group and others have shown that many of these ligands act as biased agonists when signaling through the same receptor. We use models of inflammation such as contact hypersensitivity and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). PAH is a disease of the pulmonary arterioles that results in right heart failure and most of its treatments target signaling by GPCRs. We use multiple approaches to probe these signaling mechanisms, including in-house pharmacological assays, advanced phosphoproteomics and single cell RNA sequencing.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.