Physiological roles of G protein-coupled receptor kinases and arrestins

Annu Rev Physiol. 2007;69:511-34. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.69.022405.154731.


Heterotrimeric G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are found on the surface of all cells of multicellular organisms and are major mediators of intercellular communication. More than 800 distinct GPCRs are present in the human genome, and individual receptor subtypes respond to hormones, neurotransmitters, chemokines, odorants, or tastants. GPCRs represent the most widely targeted pharmacological protein class. Because drugs that target GPCRs often engage receptor regulatory mechanisms that limit drug effectiveness, particularly in chronic treatment, there is great interest in understanding how GPCRs are regulated, as a basis for designing therapeutic drugs that evade this regulation. The major GPCR regulatory pathway involves phosphorylation of activated receptors by G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), followed by binding of arrestin proteins, which prevent receptors from activating downstream heterotrimeric G protein pathways while allowing activation of arrestin-dependent signaling pathways. Although the general mechanisms of GRK-arrestin regulation have been well explored in model cell systems and with purified proteins, much less is known about the role of GRK-arrestin regulation of receptors in physiological and pathophysiological settings. This review focuses on the physiological functions and potential pathophysiological roles of GRKs and arrestins in human disorders as well as on recent studies using knockout and transgenic mice to explore the role of GRK-arrestin regulation of GPCRs in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrestins / genetics*
  • Arrestins / physiology*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Arrestins
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases