Yoked complexes of human choriogonadotropin and the lutropin receptor: evidence that monomeric individual subunits are inactive

Mol Endocrinol. 2002 Dec;16(12):2733-45. doi: 10.1210/me.2002-0208.


Human choriogonadotropin (hCG) contains an alpha-subunit, common to other members of the glycoprotein hormone family, and a unique beta-subunit that determines hormone specificity. It is generally thought that heterodimer formation is obligatory for full hormonal activity, although other studies have indicated that individual subunits and homodimeric hCGbeta were capable of low affinity binding to the LH receptor (LHR) and subsequent activation. Previously, we constructed two yoked hormone (hCG)-LHR complexes, where the two hormone subunits and the heptahelical receptor were engineered to form single polypeptide chains, i.e. N-beta-alpha-LHR-C and N-alpha-beta-LHR-C. Expression of both complexes led to constitutive stimulation of cAMP production. In the present study, we investigated whether the human alpha-subunit and hCGbeta can act as functional agonists when covalently attached to or coexpressed with the LH receptor. Our initial results showed that hCGbeta, but not alpha, was able to activate LHR with an increase in intracellular cAMP in human embryonic kidney 293 cells but not in Chinese hamster ovary or COS-7 cells. Further examination of this apparent cell-specific agonist activity of hCGbeta revealed that low levels of endogenous alpha-subunit were expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells, thus enabling sufficient amounts of active heterodimer to form with the transfected hCGbeta to activate LHR. The studies in Chinese hamster ovary and COS-7 cells clearly demonstrate that, even under experimental conditions where hormone-receptor interactions are maximized, individual subunits of hCG can not act as functional agonists, at least in their monomeric form.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • CHO Cells
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / chemistry*
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / genetics
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / metabolism*
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / chemistry
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / genetics
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • Cyclic AMP / biosynthesis
  • Dimerization*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Gene Expression
  • Glycoprotein Hormones, alpha Subunit / chemistry
  • Glycoprotein Hormones, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Glycoprotein Hormones, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Kidney
  • Rats
  • Receptors, LH / chemistry*
  • Receptors, LH / genetics
  • Receptors, LH / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transfection


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human
  • Glycoprotein Hormones, alpha Subunit
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Receptors, LH
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • yoked hormone receptor, recombinant
  • Cyclic AMP