G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are seven-transmembrane proteins (7-TM) that transduce extracellular signals into cellular physiological responses through the activation of heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide binding proteins (alpha beta gamma subunits). Their general properties are remarkably well conserved during evolution. Despite this general resemblance, a large variety of different signals are mediated via this category of receptors. Several GPCR-(sub)families have an ancient origin that is situated before the divergence of Protostomian and Deuterostomian animals. Nevertheless, an enormous diversification has occurred since then. The availability of novel sequence information is growing very rapidly as a result of molecular cloning experiments and of metazoan genome (Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, Homo sapiens) and EST (expressed sequence tags) sequencing projects. The Drosophila Genome Sequencing Project will certainly have an important impact on insect signal transduction and receptor research. In parallel, convenient expression systems and functional assay procedures will be needed to investigate insect receptor properties and to monitor the effects of natural and artificial ligands. The study of the evolutionary aspects of G protein-coupled receptors and of their signaling pathways will probably reveal insect-specific features. More insight into these features may result in novel methods and practical applications. Arch.
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