G protein beta gamma subunits stimulate phosphorylation of Shc adapter protein.

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The mechanism of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase activation by pertussis toxin-sensitive Gi-coupled receptors is known to involve the beta gamma subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins (G beta gamma), p21ras activation, and an as-yet-unidentified tyrosine kinase. To investigate the mechanism of G beta gamma-stimulated p21ras activation, G beta gamma-mediated tyrosine phosphorylation was examined by overexpressing G beta gamma or alpha 2-C10 adrenergic receptors (ARs) that couple to Gi in COS-7 cells. Immunoprecipitation of phosphotyrosine-containing proteins revealed a 2- to 3-fold increase in the phosphorylation of two proteins of approximately 50 kDa (designated as p52) in G beta gamma-transfected cells or in alpha 2-C10 AR-transfected cells stimulated with the agonist UK-14304. The latter response was pertussis toxin sensitive. These proteins (p52) were also specifically immunoprecipitated with anti-Shc antibodies and comigrated with two Shc proteins, 46 and 52 kDa. The G beta gamma- or alpha 2-C10 AR-stimulated p52 (Shc) phosphorylation was inhibited by coexpression of the carboxyl terminus of beta-adrenergic receptor kinase (a G beta gamma-binding pleckstrin homology domain peptide) or by the tyrosine kinase inhibitors genistein and herbimycin A, but not by a dominant negative mutant of p21ras. Worthmannin, a specific inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibited phosphorylation of p52 (Shc), implying involvement of PI3K. These results suggest that G beta gamma-stimulated Shc phosphorylation represents an early step in the pathway leading to p21ras activation, similar to the mechanism utilized by growth factor tyrosine kinase receptors.


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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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