Mechanisms of metabotropic glutamate receptor desensitization: role in the patterning of effector enzyme activation

Neurochem Int. 2002 Nov;41(5):319-26. doi: 10.1016/s0197-0186(02)00073-6.


Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) constitute an unique subclass of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). These receptors are activated by the excitatory amino acid glutamate and play an essential role in regulating neural development and plasticity. In the present review, we overview the current understanding regarding the molecular mechanisms involved in the desensitization and endocytosis of Group 1 mGluRs as well as the relative contribution of desensitization to the spatial-temporal patterning of glutamate receptor signaling. Similar to what has been reported previously for prototypic GPCRs, mGluRs desensitization is mediated by second messenger-dependent protein kinases and GPCR kinases (GRKs). However, it remains to be determined whether mGluRs phosphorylation by GRKs and beta-arrestin binding are absolutely required for desensitization. Group 1 mGluRs endocytosis is both agonist-dependent and -independent. Agonist-dependent mGluRs internalization is mediated by a beta-arrestin- and dynamin-dependent clathrin-coated vesicle dependent endocytic pathway. The activation of Group 1 mGluRs also results in oscillatory Gq protein-coupling leading to the cyclical activation of phospholipase Cbeta thereby stimulating oscillations in both inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate formation and Ca(2+) release from intracellular stores. These glutamate receptor-stimulated Ca(2+) oscillations are translated into the synchronous activation of protein kinase C (PKC), which has led to the hypothesis that oscillatory mGluRs signaling involves the repetitive phosphorylation of mGluRs by PKC. However, recent experimental evidence suggests that oscillatory signaling is an intrinsic glutamate receptor property that is independent of feedback receptor phosphorylation by PKC. The challenge in the future will be to determine the structural determinants underlying mGluRs-mediated spatial-temporal signaling as well as to understand how complex signaling patterns can be interpreted by cells in both the developing and adult nervous systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrestins / physiology
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / physiology*
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology


  • Arrestins
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1