Chimeric G proteins allow a high-throughput signaling assay of Gi-coupled receptors

Anal Biochem. 1999 Jun 1;270(2):242-8. doi: 10.1006/abio.1999.4061.


G-protein-coupled receptors are a major target for potential therapeutics; yet, a large number of these receptors couple to the Gi pathway, generating signals that are difficult to detect. We have combined chimeric G proteins, automated sample handling, and simultaneous 96-well fluorometric imaging to develop a high-throughput assay system for Gi signaling. The chimeric G proteins alter receptor coupling so that signaling can occur through Gq and result in mobilization of intracellular calcium stores. An automated signaling assay device, the fluorometric imaging plate reader (FLIPR), can simultaneously measure this response in real time in 96-well microplates, allowing two people to process more than 10,000 points per day. We used the chimeric G protein/FLIPR system to characterize signaling by the Gi-coupled human opioid receptors. We show that the mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors and the related nociceptin receptor, ORL1, each couple to Galphaqi5, Galphaqo5, and Galpha16 (Galphaqi5 and Galphaqo5 refer to Galphaq proteins containing the five carboxyl-terminal amino acids from Galphai and Galphao, respectively) and that different receptor/G protein combinations show different levels of maximal activation. We tested 31 opioid ligands for agonist activity at the opioid receptors (124 ligand-receptor combinations); all 31 activated at least one receptor type, and several activated multiple receptors with differing potencies. This high-throughput assay could be useful for dissecting the complex ligand-receptor relationships that are common in nature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • CHO Cells
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Fluorometry / methods*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Opioid Peptides / genetics
  • Opioid Peptides / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Opioid / agonists
  • Receptors, Opioid / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transfection


  • DNA Primers
  • Opioid Peptides
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Calcium