G protein coupled receptor dimerization: implications in modulating receptor function

J Mol Med (Berl). 2001 Jun;79(5-6):226-42. doi: 10.1007/s001090100219.


Protein-protein interactions are involved in the regulation of a large number of biological processes. It is well established that a variety of cell surface receptors interact with each other to form dimers, and that this is essential for their activation. Although the existence of G protein coupled receptor dimers was predicted from early pharmacological and biochemical analysis, solid evidence supporting dimerization has come within the past few years following the cloning of G protein coupled receptor cDNAs. Using differential epitope tagging and selective immunoisolation of receptor complexes, dimerization of a number of G protein coupled receptors including members of the rhodopsin, secretin, and metabotropic glutamate receptor families have been reported. More recently fluorescence or bioluminescence resonance energy transfer techniques have been used to examine dimerization of these receptors in live cells. These studies have found that whereas in some cases there is an agonist induced increase in the level of dimers, in others there is a decrease or no change in dimer levels. Several recent studies have also reported the ability of related members of G protein coupled receptors to heterodimerize. These heterodimers exhibit distinct physical and functional properties. Examination of possible sites of interactions between receptors has implicated a role for extracellular, transmembrane and/or C-terminal region in dimerization. The functional consequences of dimerization, explored mainly using mutant receptors, have demonstrated a role in modulating agonist affinity, efficacy, and/or trafficking properties. Thus dimerization appears to be a universal phenomenon that provides an additional mechanism for modulation of receptor function as well as cross-talk between G protein coupled receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dimerization
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / agonists
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins