The use of stimulus-biased assay systems to detect agonist-specific receptor active states: implications for the trafficking of receptor stimulus by agonists

Mol Pharmacol. 2000 Dec;58(6):1230-8. doi: 10.1124/mol.58.6.1230.


The quantitative comparison of the relative potency of agonists is a standard method of receptor and agonist classification. If agonist potency ratios do not correspond in two given tissues, this is used as presumptive data to conclude that the receptors in those two tissues are different. This article presents data to show that a single receptor can demonstrate varying agonist potency ratios in different host cells. These data are described in terms of the production of more than one agonist-selective receptor active state and the interaction of these different active states with multiple G proteins in the membrane to produce cellular response. Stable host human embryonic kidney 293 cells with enhanced quantities of the respective Galpha-protein were created. Wild-type and Galpha-subunit enriched cells were then transiently transfected with human calcitonin receptor type 2 (hCTR2). Binding did not detect differences in the G protein-enriched cells versus wild-type cells. In contrast, functional studies did show differences between the host cell lines and Galpha-subunit enriched cell lines. The relative potency of eight calcitonin agonists was measured in studies of calcium fluorescence in transfected cells containing human calcitonin receptor type 2 by comparing pEC(50) (-log molar concentration producing half-maximal response) values. In Galphas-enriched cells, the relative order of potency of the agonists changed. The host-cell dependent differences in potency ratios ranged from 2-fold to more than 46-fold. This finding is not consistent with the idea that all of the agonists produce response in the same manner (i.e., through a common active state of the receptor). These data are consistent with the idea that these different agonists produce arrays of active states that differentially use G proteins. This idea is discussed in terms of the design of stimulus-bias assay systems to detect agonist-selective receptor active states with resulting potential for increased selectivity of agonists.

MeSH terms

  • Binding, Competitive
  • Calcitonin / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Calcitonin / agonists
  • Receptors, Calcitonin / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitonin / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, Calcitonin
  • salmon calcitonin
  • Calcitonin
  • GTP-Binding Proteins