Monoclonal antibodies reveal receptor specificity among G-protein-coupled receptor kinases.


Guanine nucleotide-binding regulatory protein (G protein)-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) constitute a family of serine/threonine kinases that play a major role in the agonist-induced phosphorylation and desensitization of G-protein-coupled receptors. Herein we describe the generation of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that specifically react with GRK2 and GRK3 or with GRK4, GRK5, and GRK6. They are used in several different receptor systems to identify the kinases that are responsible for receptor phosphorylation and desensitization. The ability of these reagents to inhibit GRK- mediated receptor phosphorylation is demonstrated in permeabilized 293 cells that overexpress individual GRKs and the type 1A angiotensin II receptor. We also use this approach to identify the endogenous GRKs that are responsible for the agonist-induced phosphorylation of epitope-tagged beta2- adrenergic receptors (beta2ARs) overexpressed in rabbit ventricular myocytes that are infected with a recombinant adenovirus. In these myocytes, anti-GRK2/3 mAbs inhibit isoproterenol-induced receptor phosphorylation by 77%, while GRK4-6-specific mAbs have no effect. Consistent with the operation of a betaAR kinase-mediated mechanism, GRK2 is identified by immunoblot analysis as well as in a functional assay as the predominant GRK expressed in these cells. Microinjection of GRK2/3-specific mAbs into chicken sensory neurons, which have been shown to express a GRK3-like protein, abolishes desensitization of the alpha2AR-mediated calcium current inhibition. The intracellular inhibition of endogenous GRKs by mAbs represents a novel approach to the study of receptor specificities among GRKs that should be widely applicable to many G-protein-coupled receptors.







Neil Jonathan Freedman

Professor of Medicine

Our work focuses on atherosclerosis-related signal transduction and the genetic bases of atherosclerosis and vein graft failure, both in vitro and in vivo. We investigate the regulation of receptor protein tyrosine kinases by G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), and the role of GRKs and β-arrestins in atherosclerosis; the role of tumor necrosis factor and its receptors in atherosclerosis; and the role of the dual Rho-GEF kalirin in atherosclerosis. For in vivo modeling of atherosclerosis and neointimal hyperplasia, we use mouse carotid artery bypass grafting with either veins or arteries from gene-deleted or congenic wild type mice, as well as aortic atherosclerosis studies and bone marrow transplantation. To study receptor phosphorylation, signal transduction, and intracellular trafficking, we employ primary smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, and macrophages derived from knockout mice or treated with RNA interference.

Key Words: atherosclerosis, G protein-coupled receptor kinases, arrestins, desensitization, phosphorylation, platelet-derived growth factor receptors, receptor protein tyrosine kinases, smooth muscle cells, neointimal hyperplasia, Rho-GEF.


Robert J. Lefkowitz

The Chancellor's Distinguished Professor of Medicine

Dr. Lefkowitz’s memoir, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm, recounts his early career as a cardiologist and his transition to biochemistry, which led to his Nobel Prize win.

Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D. is Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at the Duke University Medical Center. He has been an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1976. Dr. Lefkowitz began his research career in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when there was not a clear consensus that specific receptors for drugs and hormones even existed. His group spent 15 difficult years developing techniques for labeling the receptors with radioactive drugs and then purifying the four different receptors that were known and thought to exist for adrenaline, so called adrenergic receptors. In 1986 Dr. Lefkowitz transformed the understanding of what had by then become known as G protein coupled receptors because of the way the receptor signal for the inside of a cell through G proteins, when he and his colleagues cloned the gene for the beta2-adrenergic receptor. They immediately recognized the similarity to a molecule called rhodopsin which is essentially a light receptor in the retina. This unexpected finding established the beta receptor and rhodopsin as the first member of a new family of proteins. Because each has a peptide structure, which weaves across the cell membrane seven times, these receptors are referred to as seven transmembrane receptors. This super family is now known to be the largest, most diverse and most therapeutically accessible of all the different kinds of cellular receptors. There are almost a thousand members of this receptor family and they regulate virtually all known physiological processes in humans. They include the receptors not only to numerous hormones and neurotransmitters but for the receptors which mediate the senses of sweet and bitter taste and smell amongst many others. Dr. Lefkowitz also discovered the mechanism by which receptor signaling is turned off, a process known as desensitization. Dr. Lefkowitz work was performed at the most fundamental and basic end of the research spectrum and has had remarkable consequences for clinical medicine. Today, more than half of all prescription drug sales are of drugs that target either directly or indirectly the receptors discovered by Dr. Lefkowitz and his trainees. These include amongst many others beta blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs and antihistamines. Over the past decade he has discovered novel mechanisms by which the receptors function which may lead to the development of an entirely new class of drugs called “biased agonists”. Several such compounds are already in advanced stages of clinical testing. Dr. Lefkowitz has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Shaw Prize, the Albany Prize, and the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was elected to the USA National Academy of Sciences in 1988, the Institute of Medicine in 1994, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1988.

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