Introduction: Screening drugs against G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) - the single largest family of drug targets in the human genome - is still a major effort in pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Conventional cell-based assays generally measure a single cellular event, such as the generation of a second messenger or the relocation of a specific protein target. However, manipulation or engineering of cells is often a prerequisite for these technologies to achieve desired sensitivities. The present study is focused on the use of non-invasive and manipulation-free optical biosensors for assaying endogenous GPCRs in adherent cells.
Methods: Resonant waveguide grating (RWG) biosensor was applied to manifest ligand-induced dynamic mass redistribution (DMR) within the bottom portion of adherent cell layer. The DMR signatures mediated through the activation of several endogenous GPCRs in cells were characterized. Endogenous receptor panning was examined at cell system level by using a panel of agonists known to activate many GPCRs, and also at family receptor level by determining the efficacies of a set of family-specific agonists.
Results: Three major types of optical signatures were identified; each was correlated with the activation of a class of GPCRs, depending on the G protein with which the receptor is coupled (i.e., G(q), G(s) and G(i)). The characteristics of DMR signals, mostly the amplitude and kinetics of a DMR event, were dependent on the doses of agonists and the expression levels of endogenous receptors. All three classes of endogenous receptors were found in human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells. Interestingly, the dose-dependent switching from one type of DMR signal to another was observed for several GPCR agonists examined. A small panel of P2Y receptor agonists exhibited distinct efficacies in three cell lines examined.
Discussions: The RWG biosensors were applicable to study the activation of endogenous GPCRs. Like second messengers or gene expression, the DMR signals obtained could be considered as novel and quantifiable physiological responses of living cells mediated through GPCRs and used for studying receptor biology.