Functional dissociation of apelin receptor signaling and endocytosis: implications for the effects of apelin on arterial blood pressure

J Neurochem. 2004 Sep;90(6):1290-301. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2004.02591.x.


Apelin is a novel neuropeptide involved in the regulation of body fluid homeostasis and cardiovascular functions. It acts through a G protein-coupled receptor, the APJ receptor. We studied the structure-activity relationships of apelin at the rat apelin receptor, tagged at its C-terminal end with enhanced green fluorescent protein and stably expressed in CHO cells. We evaluated the potency of N- and C-terminal deleted fragments of K17F to bind with high affinity to the apelin receptor, and to inhibit cAMP production and to induce apelin receptor internalization. We first characterized the internalization and trafficking of the rat apelin receptor. This receptor was internalized via a clathrin-dependent mechanism and our results suggest that receptor trafficking may follow a recycling pathway. We then tried to identify the amino acids of K17F required for apelin activity. The first five N-terminal and the last two C-terminal amino acids of K17F were not essential for apelin binding or the inhibition of cAMP production. However, the full-length sequence of K17F was the most potent inducer of apelin receptor internalization because successive N-terminal amino-acid deletions progressively reduced internalization and the removal of a single amino acid at the C-terminus abolished this process. Finally, the most novel observation of this work is that hypotensive actions of apelin peptides correlate best with the ability of those ligands to internalize. Thus, apelin receptor signaling and endocytosis are functionally dissociated, possibly reflecting the existence of several conformational states of this receptor, stabilized by the binding of different apelin fragments to the apelin receptor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apelin
  • Apelin Receptors
  • Binding, Competitive / physiology
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • CHO Cells
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Cathepsins / metabolism
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Endocytosis / drug effects
  • Endocytosis / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology
  • Radioligand Assay / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Rhodamines / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins


  • Apelin
  • Apelin Receptors
  • Apln protein, rat
  • Aplnr protein, rat
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Rhodamines
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • early endosome antigen 1
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Sucrose
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cathepsins